|I.||Ban-Ban, the Bold||1|
|II.||Six Small Cats Do Great Things||24|
|III.||The Purrers of Purrington||45|
|IV.||A Five O’clock Catnip Tea||66|
|V.||The Scampishness of Scamp||87|
|VI.||Mrs. Brindle Brings Startling News||107|
|VII.||They Fought Like Cats and Dogs!||126|
|VIII.||Ban-Ban and Kiku-san form an Embassy||146|
|IX.||Visitors to Purrington||164|
|X.||The Purrers Bestow the Freedom of Purrington||184|
|XI.||An Election and a Defection||204|
|XII.||Wedding-bells and Brief Farewells||224|
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
|“They progressed comfortably, hearing without difficulty the story of the founding of Purrington” (see page 190)||Frontispiece|
|“‘I have had a Great Idea’”||18|
|Singing the Song||23|
|One of the Stranger Cats||27|
|“Little Dolly Varden fell asleep”||31|
|“S. Katz Fresh Mice Daily”||49|
|“The shout of welcome which all the Purrers of Purring to raised”||59|
|“A long, creamy, blessed drink”||61|
|“One came to town with five kittens!”||68|
|“A small, gray cat called Posty”||68|
|“Scamp looked him over scornfully”||100|
|“Licking him frantically”||109|
|“Ready to pounce”||133|
|“Each with a cat on his back”||136|
|“The cats watched the retreat”||142|
|“They sat for a time resting”||144|
|“Kiku-san came and rubbed his cheek against Tommy’s”||160|
|“Their speed increased”||165|
|“She gathered, the happy, purring white creature into her arms”||170|
|“A black cat played the violin”||201|
|“Had often sat on a big volume of Shakespeare”||226|
|“It was a most beautiful sight”||238|
BAN-BAN, THE BOLD
e was really very beautiful. High-born, too,—a pure Maltese! He had a short, saucy face; a square little nose, with which he was apt to pry into other people’s business; and he saw everything with his bright eyes, and understood most things with his quick wit. But he had almost no patience at all, and he was as full of pranks as a monkey—indeed, that’s what gave him his name.
A boy? Mercy, no! Whoever heard of a pure Maltese boy? A cat, of course, but such a beauty! He was as quick as he could be, and ran very fast, and jumped like a flash—flashes do jump, so that’s all right. Did you never see a flash of lightning jump from one cloud to another? Well, this Maltese kitten was so quick that his little master called him Bandersnatch—out of “Through the Looking-Glass”, you know, where the White King says: “You might as well try to catch a Bandersnatch,” or, in another place: “You might as well try to stop a Bandersnatch.” So that is where quick little Ban-Ban got his first name. And the second Ban was short for Bandarlog, the name of the monkey people in the Jungle Book, because he was so much more like a monkey than a quiet, purry, furry, mild-mannered kitten.
Ban-Ban had the very best home a cat could have; indeed, he was a good deal spoiled. In this home he grew up to be three years old, but it was only his body that grew bigger. Inside that Maltese body he wore a kitten’s heart, getting younger every minute, loving play better, and cutting up more didoes all the time, instead of settling down into a staid cat, as any one would have expected him to do who saw the purple shades in his dark gray suit!
Now Ban-Ban loved his little master very much—not that he ever thought of him as his “master;” no cat ever would admit having a master. Ban-Ban considered the little boy as a friend whom he, a prince of the Maltese Royal Family, allowed to play with him. He was more useful than kitten friends because he could open doors, drag strings around, hide sticks under the edges of rugs, get milk from the refrigerator, cut up meat, play hide-and-go-seek better than cats, and shake up soft knitted things into fine beds on cold days, besides scratching a person under the chin and on the side of the cheek in a way that made a person stick out his little red tongue and purr, no matter how much he felt like playing. But that is not having a master; that is really keeping a very useful and devoted servant. Ban-Ban hated of all things to show that he loved little Rob; he liked to pretend that he was only polite to him, and often, when he meant to get up in Rob’s lap for a little talk, if Rob saw him coming, Ban-Ban would sit down and wash his face, trying to look as if he had never once thought of being loving. You see he was independent.
Because he was independent, and so very impatient, it all came about.
One day Ban-Ban had an idea dart into his brain. Ban-Ban’s ideas always darted, they never came slowly; they were just like everything else about him, “as fast as a Bandersnatch.” “If two-legged people can build towns and live in them without asking the help of us cats, why can’t we cats have a town of our own, and not ask the help of the two-legged people? They are more clumsy and stupid than we are—except Rob; he isn’t clumsy or stupid.”
It was such a wonderful thought that it half-stunned even Ban-Ban. For as much as five minutes he sat perfectly still, with only the tippest tip of his tail moving. Then he started up with a leap, as if he were jumping after those lost five minutes just as he jumped for butterflies, and away he ran down the garden to find some of his friends.
Bidelia was one of these friends. She was a little creature, very young, a tortoise-shell cat, not pretty, but so clever that no one who didn’t know her could believe how clever she was. Her cat acquaintances suspected that she wrote stories on the sly, for her sides were always spattered with big black spots on a yellow ground, and her friends believed she got ink on her yellow clothes writing stories for the magazines, because she was so very clever, and people who are very clever and write books are apt to be untidy with their ink.
Though she was younger than Ban-Ban by nearly two years she had three children, and they were already two months old: Nugget, all yellow, Puttel, black with a white thumb-mark under her chin, and Dolly Varden, with a tortoise-shell dress like her mother’s. Bidelia had good reason to be as proud of her children as she was!
Another of Ban-Ban’s friends was Mr. Thomas Traddles, a tiger cat, who was so wise and had such remarkable judgment that every one came to him for advice. He was older than Ban-Ban, and he was one of that queer sort of friends which we all have: people whom we do not really like, but whom we respect heaps and heaps, and without whom we cannot get along. Not that there was any reason why Ban-Ban should not like Tommy Traddles; his disposition was perfect, and his manners of the best. Perhaps it was because Tom was so sensible and grave, and Ban-Ban was such a little firebrand, for we none of us really like people who make us feel that we are in the wrong, not unless we are far more humble-minded folk than was proud little Ban-Ban.
There, too, was Wutz-Butz, whose name didn’t mean much, but that the little girl who owned him liked to mix up letters and call him by queer sounds. He was a gray and white cat who would let the little girl whom he thought he owned, but who thought that she owned him, do anything under the sun to him, and he would stand it with a perfect mush of patience, but out among the cats he was a warrior. He fought every one that he happened to dislike, and Ban-Ban was always thankful Wutz-Butz liked him—and Ban-Ban was not a coward, either. Wutz-Butz had a big, round head, and a short, thick-set body, and his complexion was apt to get rumpled up—can complexions get rumpled? Well, at any rate this cat’s complexion looked rumpled—because of the many strong arguments he had with Ruth’s grandmother’s big white cat with the gray ears. Ruth was the little girl who owned Wutz-Butz, or whom he owned, according to whether you believe from her or his side of the question.
Ban-Ban had another friend to whom he was bound by ties of the highest respect and gratitude. This was Madam Laura, a sweet, kindly middle-aged lady,—perhaps a trifle past middle age,—to whom all the cats went for comfort and teaching. She was a widow lady, so she wore a great deal of black over her white sides and back, laid on in big spots. She had had a great many sons and daughters, but they had all gone to make their own way in the world, and Madam Laura was said to be quite wealthy, with no one dependent upon her for mice. She was a cat with a mother’s heart for all the mewing world, and no cat could be so scratchy as not to love this gentle lady.
The last and dearest of Ban-Ban’s friends was Kiku, the snow-white cat, whose name was a Japanese word that means chrysanthemum, and whose nature was as flower-like as his name. He lived next door to Ban-Ban, and played with him most of the time. His little mistress was Rob’s dearest friend, his cousin, and her name was Lois. She was a year younger than Rob, which made her only seven years old, but she was not the least bit careless or rough with her pets, as some children are, and Kiku was a very lucky “kitteny-wink, little white lambkin,” as Lois called him.
Kiku was always called “Kiku-san,” because “san” is a mark of honour among the Japanese, and white Kiku was so gentle and lovely-mannered that no one could deny him the respectful title that his Japanese name suggested. Kiku-san wore white garments with pink trimmings, and he kept them snowy white, for he only went out to play in the grass in fine weather, and slept at night cuddled close in Lois’s arms. He puckered his mouth when he was spoken to, and brought his lids down over his amber eyes as if he knew he was most sweet and lovable, fully deserving all the praise which he received—and so he did, for nothing would tempt him to scratch; he never lost his temper, unless he had lost it for good and all when he was born, and had never found it again, which seemed to be the case, for no one had ever seen him cross.
These were Ban-Ban’s friends, and it was to find them, or all of them that he could find, that he ran so fast down the garden after his wonderful idea struck him.
He came upon Bidelia, who was sitting in the sunshine letting the children play with her tail.
“Oh, Bidelia!” cried Ban-Ban, “have you seen any of the others?”
“How out of breath you are!” said Bidelia, reproachfully. She was so little that she could jump about all day and never lose her breath. “Tommy Traddles is sunning himself on the fence. Madam Laura is singing a few Felines on the garden bench.” A Feline is a kind of cat hymn.
“Do you think you could trust one of the kittens to hunt up Wutz-Butz, and Kiku-san, and ask them to join us here? I have something catelovelant to tell them,” said Ban-Ban. “Catelovelant” means “lovely for cats.”
“I think Nugget could go; he is getting very plump and reliable,” returned Bidelia. “Puttel, go and ask Madam Laura if she would kindly come over here when she has finished her Felines. And, Dolly Varden, go waken Mr. Traddles and ask him to come. If he is very sound asleep you may stand up on your hind legs and pull his tail—very gently,” she added, as Dolly spun around three times rapidly, “and with the greatest respect.”
The three kittens scampered off, and Ban-Ban with much effort kept himself from pouring out to Bidelia the Great Idea. Fortunately the kittens so quickly got together the cats for whom they were sent that Ban-Ban was saved from choosing between telling or having a fit.
“You had something to say to us, my dear?” hinted Madam Laura after they were all seated. Her voice sounded like rolls of butter rolling, it was so soft and smooth.
“Yes,” said Ban-Ban, his fur beginning to stick up all over and his tail to swell, as it always did when he was excited. “I have had a Great Idea.”
“You were clever from your kittenhood, Bannie,” said Madam Laura, who had known his grandmother.
“‘I have had a Great Idea.’”
“Human beings,” Ban-Ban continued, trying to keep back the little puffing spits which he often gave when he was stirred, “Human beings build towns and live in them. They never ask our help; they feel that they own the towns. Very likely they do; but as their cats always own the human beings, it doesn’t matter. What I have to suggest is that there is no reason why cats should not build and own a city just as the human beings do. I think that we should be the ones to do this. Let us, all of us here, go away to some lovely spot and build a city. Let us ask all the poor, homeless cats, who don’t own any human beings, and so have very little food and no warm places to live, to join us. Let us have a city of cats, and let us hand our names down in all future categories and catalogues and histories as the Fathers—and Mothers”—he added, bowing to Madam Laura and Bidelia—“of Our Country, Glory of Our Race.”
“Hear, hear!” cried Wutz-Butz. He pronounced it: “He-ar, He-ar!” It sounded like a mew.
“Bandersnatch-Bandarlog, you are indeed A Great Mind,” said Tommy Traddles, gravely.
“It will be lovely!” cried Bidelia, joyously. “I want a more extended field.”
“And more field-mice,” added Laura, who was not clever, only good, which is better than mere cleverness, as all properly taught cats know.
“Then you agree?” asked Ban-Ban, not able, this time, to keep from ending in a “P-pst!” of pure excitement.
“Yes, yes,” cried all the cats together.
“Yes,” added Kiku-san alone, “but I am afraid that Lois will need me.”
“Our human beings will soon get other cats,” said Ban-Ban, wisely. “I have always noticed they soon get another cat to wait upon, when they lose the one they have had. Not that I shall leave Rob long without me,” he added. “Rob and I are friends. But the founding of this city is a duty; it will be a haven for oppressed cats. When shall we go?”
“On the third day from this one,” said Tommy Traddles, promptly. “In the meantime we will eat all that we can, and get together as many provisions as we can carry.”
“Before we part,” said Bidelia, “let us sing a song. Wait; I will make one for this occasion.”
It was the custom of these cats to sing each night before separating, so the others all willingly sat down to wait while Bidelia wrote the words which were to commemorate their newly taken and important resolution.
Singing the song.
Soon that clever little cat announced the song ready, and they sang the following words to the air of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic:”
“We’ll put our fur in order and brave Pilgrim-cats we’ll be;
With whiskers out and tails erect we’ll march courageously.
We’ll found a town for other cats, less fortunate than we:
Each cat shall have his day!
“We love the friends that love us, and our hearts to them are true;
We’ll ne’er forget the kindly folk beside whose hearths we grew,
But though our friends are good to us, mankind is cruel, too:
Each cat must have his day!
“Then, onward, Pilgrim-cats, nor pause to cast a look behind,
For duty calls our velvet paws our kindred’s wounds to bind;
In Pussy-Town all homeless cats a home and peace may find:
Each cat shall have his day.”
SIX SMALL CATS DO GREAT THINGS
hree days later the moon looked down on a more wonderful sight than she had seen since the cow had jumped over her,—more wonderful even than she had seen then, for this sight was much more than one cat with a fiddle.
Six cats and three kittens led a procession of at least a dozen more cats out of the town and along the wooded country roads. Ban-Ban was ahead. He had a big red bow on his collar, which poor Rob had tied on, intending the Maltese cat to look his best when expected company should come that evening. He little thought that he was adorning Ban-Ban for a journey, and a parting that was going to cost himself keen grief!
But Ban-Ban had no room in his mind for Rob’s anxiety; he trotted proudly along, with his short, velvety ears pricked up, his nose alert for dangers. Close behind him marched Wutz-Butz, in case he was needed for a fight. Tommy Traddles came next, in case he was needed for advice. Kiku-san—he wore a beautiful pink ribbon, because Lois loved to see him well dressed—Kiku walked between Bidelia and Madam Laura, the only one of the party with a regret. His thoughts dwelt on Lois, and how troubled she would be when he did not come to bed that night, and she could not find him in the morning. Behind Bidelia came the three kittens, driving their young mother half crazy with their antics. They would not walk soberly, but frisked and played, and ran out of sight into the shadow, and sometimes half-way up a tree, until little Bidelia was sure that she would be quite as gray as Ban-Ban, but with another sort of grayness, from her worry, by the time she got to wherever they were going.
The stranger cats walked behind their leaders. They were all thin and sad-looking, for they had had no homes, and life had been most hard to them. They were glad enough to think that they were on their way to make their fortunes in a city of cats, where there would be no stones thrown, no dogs to chase them, no cruel boys to frighten and hurt them.
One of the stranger cats.
The six cat leaders all carried something. Ban-Ban had a big piece of beef. He had not stolen it, because it had been bought for him, but he had whisked it out of the refrigerator when the cook left the door open for a moment.
Wutz-Butz had dragged along a piece of red flannel. He was inclined to be stiff in his legs from rheumatism and his frequent battles, and he had no mind to sleep on the cold ground, though many a soldier before him has had no better bed.
Tommy Traddles had a pail of milk fastened over his shoulders,—Laura had tied it on for him,—and in his paws he carried an umbrella, because he knew that if it rained they would all hate to be out in the wet.
Bidelia, like the gay young thing that she was, brought only neck-ribbons for her children, and some worsted balls with which they—and she, too, if she would own it—loved to play. But Madam Laura, like an older and wiser mother, brought catnip roots, as well as some dried catnip to start on, in case the kittens were ill. She also had a little bottle of castor-oil, because she knew how good that was for kittens when they overate themselves.
Kiku-san carried his crocheted shawl. It was one that had been dyed red, and which Lois kept in a rocking-chair for Kiku’s daytime naps. Kiku wore it now around his shoulders, and wondered doubtfully if he could get another crocheted shawl in Pussy-Cat Town when this one was worn out.
They walked and they walked for what seemed a long, long distance even to the cats. As to the kittens, they had long ceased frisking, and crawled along slowly, mewing pathetically, and taking hold of Bidelia’s tail to help themselves as they went.
“Little Dolly Varden fell asleep.”
Tommy Traddles looked around and saw how tired they were. “If some of you gentlemen in the back there, who have no food or beds to carry, would lay your forepaws on one another’s shoulders, and take turns in letting the children sit on them, you would be able to get the poor little kitlets over the ground, saving them suffering, and not hurting yourselves,” he said.
The stranger cats were glad to do this, though they would never have been wise enough to have invented this way of carrying the babies. Little Dolly Varden fell asleep the instant she was put up on the paws of a big black cat and a black and white one, who offered to carry her. “She was that done out,” said the black and white cat. He had a kind heart, but his English was not very good, because he had learned it in the streets.
It was about twenty minutes past ten when the cat pilgrims reached a lovely spot. It was a clearing in a wood, almost an acre wide. It stood right on the bank of a tiny stream, which Bidelia called a river, but which was really rather a small and quiet brook. All around this cleared spot were beautiful woods, and only a grass-grown road ran through it, such as is made by broad wagon wheels when men go to cut down trees in the woods.
“This is the very place for us,” declared Ban-Ban, looking around him with great content.
“It isn’t far from the town,” objected the black cat, who was helping carry Dolly Varden. His name was ’Clipsy, short for Eclipse. He had not always been poor; he was born in a very nice home, where he had been given his name, but he had got lost when he was very young, and had had a hard time ever since. He was a gentleman always, though; the cat leaders all saw that he was the best of all the stranger cats who had joined them.
“I know it is not far from town,” said Tommy Traddles, planting his umbrella in the ground, and setting down his pail of milk beside it, with a wink at Wutz-Butz to keep his eye on it—no one could tell what some thirsty stranger cat might be tempted to do. “It is not far from town, ’Clipsy, but it is rather better for that. Did you never notice that when human beings have lost something they always look everywhere else for it before they look near home? I suppose you haven’t noticed that, because you have not lived with human beings since you were so little, but it is quite true that when anything is lost and can’t be found, it always turns out that it is because no one looked just at hand, where the lost thing always hides. So it is better for us to settle nearer our old human town than to go away off—to another State, for instance.”
There was no disputing with a cat that could allude so carelessly to “another State.” ’Clipsy at once gave up arguing; he didn’t know what “another State” meant, and he wondered greatly how Tommy could be so wise.
“Oh, it’s all right as to that,” said Ban-Ban, speaking in his quick way. He understood about states, because he had so often sat by Rob when he was learning his lessons. “I don’t think any one would find us in this place; but I wonder if there is a good market here.”
“There ought to be fish in that river,” said Madam Laura, who liked fish even better than most cats. “I know how to catch fish with my paw.”
“There are fish in that stream,” said Tommy Traddles, decidedly. “And field-mice in the woods; the market here will be excellent. I am convinced that the guardian fairies of good cats have led us here. It is well to be near town, because our city must be easily reached by homeless cats who may wish to join us. I advise you, my friends, to decide upon this spot at once as the site of the city. Do you agree to stay here?”
“Yes, yes, yes!” cried all the cats together, their voices making a chorus of soprano, alto, bass, baritone, and tenor. Even the kittens joined with their thin little pipes, though they may have been crying from sleepiness.
“We’ll make a camp!” cried Ban-Ban, putting up his back and dancing around on his toes the way he had always done when Rob offered to play with him. “We will camp out for the night, and in the morning we will ask the carpenter cats to begin to build our houses.”
“It won’t take us long,” cried the carpenter cats, five of the strangers who had joined the party.
“I told a friend of mine I would write at once after we settled on a site to let him know where he could join us. What are you going to call the town?” asked one of these cats.
“Purrington!” cried Bidelia, triumphantly, looking around for the praise she felt sure that this happy name would win from all her companions. She had been thinking up a name during the three days that she was getting together her kittens’ neck-ribbons, mending their clothes, and packing for the journey.
All the cats raised such a yowl of delight that if there had been any human being within hearing he would certainly have thought that some awful thing had happened to all the cats in the world at once. But it was merely keen pleasure that such a fashionable-sounding, yet happy, homelike, catified name had been hit upon by Bidelia, whom they now felt surer than ever must secretly be a successful author.
“Purrington by all means,” said Tommy Traddles, with the grave approval of a great scholar. “I should suggest that we also give this stream a name, and call it the Meuse. Purrington-on-the-Meuse will be a delightful heading for our note-paper.”
“Mews! Yes, that is a nice name for our river,” said Madam Laura. “Yet I don’t like, don’t quite like, calling the river after mews only. We are often so unhappy when we mew!”
“My dear lady,” said Doctor Traddles,—Tommy Traddles had been honoured with the title of Doctor of Claws by a feline college,—“we are not calling it after our own mews; we do not spell it that way. This is M-E-U-S-E, not M-E-W-S, and there is a river with that name in France. I confess I had the double sound of the word in my mind when I suggested the name, however.”
“How did you become so learned, Tommy?” sighed Madam Laura, much impressed.
“I used to sit on a dictionary a great deal of the time while I was growing,” said Thomas Traddles. “I then lived with a student of law, and I absorbed learning, and especially a knowledge of words, by sitting, and even napping, on his dictionary.”
“We are going to live in Purrington-on-the-Meuse!” cried Ban-Ban, with a flirt of his tail. “Wutz-Butz, bring your red flannel over here. Those kittens must be put to bed. Kiku-san, will you let Dolly Varden and Puttel sleep with you in your crocheted shawl, while Nugget curls up with Wutz-Butz in this red flannel?”
Before Kiku-san could reply, Bidelia started to say that she must keep her children with her, and Wutz-Butz to say that he intended to watch all that night with ’Clipsy and some others of the stranger cats; but nobody could hear a word that either of them said, for all three kittens set up a perfectly deafening trio of miaous:
“We want mamma, we want mamma; we won’t sleep with Y-O-U-U-U!” they shrieked.
“Oh, dear,” sighed Bidelia, “they are so tired you must pardon them! My darlings, you are going to sleep with mamma; please, please be quiet.” And she gave three hasty but tender licks down the noses of each of them, which quieted the kittens and comforted them.
“I was about to say that Bidelia may use my blanket to-night,” said Wutz-Butz. “I shall stay awake and watch. By to-morrow night she will have her own house all furnished.”
“You are most kind, Wutz-Butz,” said Bidelia, feeling rather ashamed that she had looked down on Wutz-Butz, thinking him only a stupid soldier. She curled herself down at once on his red flannel and drew the three kittens to her, one under her forepaw, one close to her head, and one tucked away under her chin—this was Dolly Varden, the smallest and sweetest of the three.
Kiku-san and Ban-Ban laid down close together in Kiku’s crocheted shawl. Kiku was very silent, and even Ban-Ban had nothing to say, but drew the white cat’s gentle face close to his saucy one. They remembered Rob and Lois, and it is more difficult to be brave at night, than it is in the broad daylight, when the sun is shining.
“We will sing you to sleep,” said Madam Laura and Tommy Traddles, kindly, guessing that these petted cats might be lonely. And they sang to the tune of “Santa Lucia:”
“Little cats, dearest cats, sleep on your pillows,
Under the stars and ’neath green pussy-willows.
Sweet should your rest be and peaceful your slumber,
Dreaming of cream-pans and mice without number;
Rich your reward for your courage and pity,
Giving the homeless a home and a city.
Ban-Ban and Kiku-san, all cats shall bless you,
Lois and Robin again will caress you;
Bravest cats, dearest cats, sleep on your pillows,
Kissed by the winds and the soft pussy-willows.”
Sung to a low, sweet tune, this song proved soothing, and Kiku-san and Ban-Ban fell asleep as soon as it ceased, borne away to dreamland by the rise and fall of many purrs mingling with the murmur of their rippling river Meuse.
THE PURRERS OF PURRINGTON
o one can imagine how fast cat carpenters work, for very few indeed have ever seen them work. And so it would be hard to make any one believe how fast Purrington-on-the-Meuse grew. Why, in a week those five cat carpenters had built all the houses which were needed to start with! Of course the other cats helped in all ways that they could, such as bringing boards, laying up bricks, and puttying in windows, but even with this help it was wonderful the way the town grew.
There did not have to be many houses to begin with. There was one big house, rather like a city apartment-house for single gentlemen, in which the stranger cats, all of them unmarried, were to live. Madam Laura offered to keep house for them, because they never could take care of themselves without a lady at the head of their domestic affairs, and there never could be another more fitted in every way to keep house for them than was kind Madam Laura. It was most good of her to do it, however, for being a lady of means, she could have gone off and lived selfishly by herself, without a care in the world.
Ban-Ban and Kiku-san lived with Bidelia and the children; Thomas Traddles and his new friend ’Clipsy had another house to themselves; and there was a fourth house put up for a widow lady who came with her son to Purrington from the human city. She was a white and yellow lady named Alloy, because she was not all gold, and her son, who was about a month older than Bidelia’s children, was named Scamp, and if ever a name just suited its bearer it was this kitten’s, for he was such a scamp that all the cats were worried for fear his example would lead Nugget into bad ways.
So they built a schoolhouse at once, and opened a school for the children, with Doctor Traddles for teacher, and some others to come in during the week to teach extra branches. Madam Laura, for instance, taught Fishing and Deportment; Bidelia taught Dancing; Kiku-san taught French, which he had learned from Lois’s French nurse; Wutz-Butz taught Boxing; and ’Clipsy was to give a course in Business Methods, which he had learned during his life in the streets.
Then there were the shops. One where you could buy ribbons, collars, bells, catnip, balls, cushions, and all such elegant trifles; and another which was the market. Here you could buy asparagus tips, string beans, peas, fish, and meat. This was kept by a gentleman named Schwartz Katz, one of the stranger cats who had joined the party. He was very round and stout, and was of German descent, having been born in a delicatessen shop in the human city. He had the nicest, cleanest market you ever saw, and over his door was his tempting sign: “S. Katz, Butcher. Fresh Mice Daily.” He had many customers among the citizens of Purrington who were too busy or too lazy to hunt their own game. He was a black cat, as his name showed, but he wore a white front and had white forelegs, so that he looked precisely like a human market-man—at least in his clothes—who had put on a white apron and drawn white linen sleeves over his coat sleeves. He often sat in his doorway, watching for customers, looking big and fat and prosperous, just like a nice German butcher.
Dr. Thomas Traddles had said that all the citizens of Purrington should be spoken of as Purrers, both because they were so very happy in their beautiful new city, and because it was the best way he knew of shortening the word Purrington. So Purrers they were called, and they lived up to it beautifully.
One day a most wonderful thing happened, and one that made the cats of Purrington even more Purrers than they were before. Everything had been made comfortable, and there was no lack of anything a cat could want in Purrington, save one thing, but that was a sad lack. This was milk. There was no milk to be had in Purrington, and no prospect of a way to get any. The Purrers were feeling very grave about it when, one day, a cow came walking along the grass-grown road that led through the woods beside the city, and stopped to look at the houses, as well she might, for there was not one higher than three feet, and even the apartment-house was not more than ten feet square.
Ban-Ban saw the cow considering, and he guessed in a moment that she must be the cow of whom he had heard Rob read in Mother Goose, who belonged to a piper who bade the cow consider. He knew this, because that was the only cow of whom he had ever heard who considered. So he ran straightway out to the edge of the woods to speak to her.
“Dear Madam,” Ban-Ban began most politely, for he had always moved in the best society and had heard no end of books read aloud, “you can’t imagine how glad I am to meet you. Did you like ‘Corn Rigs Are Bonny’ better than the first tune after you had bade the piper play it to you?”
The cow stared. “Yes, I always liked that tune best of all,” she said. “But how did you know?”
“That you were that piper’s cow?” asked Ban-Ban, twirling his moustache with, it must be confessed, considerable self-satisfaction. “Oh, I recognized you at once, because I saw you considering. May I ask whither you are going and whence you came?”
You will see that Ban-Ban was trying to express himself elegantly, because he wanted to impress the cow, and hoped to get her to see things his way.
“I came from the piper,” said the cow, “but I have no idea where I am going. I have left him for good and all. He had nought to give me—”
“Yes; I know,” interrupted Ban-Ban.
“Well, of course I am fond of music and all that,” the cow went on, “but a person cannot live on piping, and corn is better than the tune, ‘Corn Rigs Are Bonny.’ So I had to leave the piper, and now I am looking for a home. When I see a comfortable farm, and a farmer that looks good-tempered, and as if he would be kind to animals, I shall turn in at his gate and chew my cud until he takes me to keep.”
Ban-Ban fairly quivered with eagerness. “We are not farmers,” he began, and as the cow stared more than ever at the cat who made such an unnecessary statement, he stopped and went back to the beginning of his story.
“We are cats,” he said, “who have built this city of Purrington on this river Meuse for a place where all poor, abused cats can come and live happily all their nine lives. We have everything we want, except milk. Don’t you think you could be happy if you joined us? There would not be any one to bother you all day long; you could wander where you might choose—and wherever a cow chews—with no one to drive you, or turn you into a poor pasture, or out of a good one. We would be honoured by your presence, and would build you a house all to yourself, and all we would ask would be that every morning and night you would let down your milk to us.”
“That would be like my friend Cusha-Cow Bonny. Her master asked her to let down her milk to him, and he promised her in return a gown of silk and a silver tee,” remarked the cow, thoughtfully.
“I don’t know what a silver tee is,” said Ban-Ban, “but it doesn’t sound like anything that a cow would care for, and I’m sure you would rather have a nice house and your freedom all the long summer days than a gown of silk. Any sensible person would, especially we who already have such beautiful gowns of fine fur and glossy brown hair,—yours is a lovely colour, if you will pardon a personal remark,” added artful Ban-Ban.
The cow smiled. “Not as beautiful as yours,” she said, not to be outdone in politeness. “Yours is silver on the high line of your back, and almost purple in the shadow; I never saw a more beautiful coat.”
“Thank you,” said Ban-Ban. He did not pay as much attention to compliments as the cow did, because he had been praised ever since he had had his eyes open, and he could not help knowing how beautiful he was. “Don’t you think that you would rather stay with us, in Purrington, than to go farther, only to be again the slave of some man?”
The cow seemed to be struck by this way of putting the case; she no longer hesitated. Shifting her cud to the left cheek, the cheek on which a cow always chews when her mind is fully made up, Mrs. Brindle said, decidedly: “I am quite sure that I should. And I will!”
“Good!” cried Ban-Ban. “Follow me, then!”
Making his tail very stiffly erect to do honour to such an important occasion as was this one, when he was to lead into Purrington its supply of much needed milk, Ban-Ban wheeled around and trotted rapidly down
“The shout of welcome which all the Purrers of Purrington raised.”
the main street, followed by Mrs. Brindle, who looked more round-eyed than ever, as if she could not quite understand being adopted by a cat.
The shout of welcome which all the Purrers of Purrington raised as they espied Ban-Ban and his companion nearly lifted little Dolly Varden off her feet. But when she ran to the window and saw what was coming she raised her piping voice and cried: “Mamma, Mamma Bidelia! Come quick! Ban-Ban’s bringing home something awful, with horns! It’s bigger than men and looks crosser!”
Bidelia ran to the window.
“Why, that’s milk, my Furry-Softness!” she cried, joyfully.
“Milk!” cried Nugget, scornfully. He was not nearly as respectful in his manner since he had played with Scamp. “Milk comes in cans, mamma; not in big, hair-covered horny things, with legs!”
“That is a cow, Nugget; you will see to-night whether you know more than your mother. Cows give milk, just as pumps give water,” said Bidelia, severely.
“Then I’m glad Ban-Ban brought her,” said Puttel, licking her lips thirstily. “I’m so tired not having milk I ’most want to go back to our old place.”
“Poor Puttel!” said Bidelia, feeling of the kitten’s nose. “You are feverish. Never mind, my babies; to-night you shall have a long, creamy, blessed drink, and I’m going to cook a fish for Ban-Ban’s supper for bringing the cow here. What a genius Ban-Ban is! Nugget, run around to Mr. Schwartz Katz’s and ask him to let you have his best fish. Tell him Ban-Ban has brought the cow to Purrington, and that the fish is for him.”
“A long, creamy, blessed drink.”
“He knows it,” growled Nugget, flattening his ears sulkily, for he did not like to go on errands since Scamp had told him his mother took too much of his play-time for her service. It was far from true, for Bidelia was a most indulgent little mother.
“Nugget, go at once, and lift your ears. I will not allow you to flatten your ears when I ask you to do something for me. Oh, dear,” sighed Bidelia. “How dreadful it is to have kittens fall in with bad comrades! Nugget has always been such a good boy! And now that Scamp is changing him for the worse every day!”
“Don’t worry, mamma,” purred dear little Dolly, putting her forelegs around Bidelia’s neck. “Nugget isn’t bad, like Scamp; he only thinks it’s smart to spit and flatten his ears. He thinks that makes him catly, and a soldier like Wutz-Butz.”
Bidelia licked Dolly tenderly. “I only wish he were not so weak as to want to copy bad kittens. As though it were not much more grown-up to be strong, and good, and obedient! If he wants to be catly why doesn’t he imitate Doctor Traddles, or sweet Kiku-san, our gentle white friend, or clever Ban-Ban, or even Wutz-Butz, if he does fight sometimes? It is so silly to swagger!” And Bidelia sighed again, feeling that she was too young to manage such a great yellow kitten as Nugget was growing to be.
Just then there arose in the street a great chorus. To human ears it would have sounded like a chorus of mews, but it was not.
All the cats were shouting, just as they had heard human beings shout at election time, and this was what they were saying:
“What’s the matter with Ban-Ban?” “He’s all right!” “Who founded Purrington?” “Ban-Ban!” “Who brought the cow to Purrington?” “Ban-Ban!”
And then they sang, to the tune of Yankee Doodle:
“Bannie-Ban, with coat of silk,
Got poor thirsty cats their milk!
Bannie-Ban, he knows how
Best to argue with a cow.
Purrers, we, of Purrington,
Without milk could not get on.
Who went out, the cow to catch?
Our noble Bandersnatch!
Who brought Brindle, jogging-jog?
Our noble Bandarlog!
Cheer, then, cheer, all cats who can,
Cheer your best for great Ban-Ban!”
A FIVE O’CLOCK CATNIP TEA
hen Purrington was started there were a great many who thought that it must fail. Cats who would not join the pilgrims to the new city sat on back fences and mewed over the certain disappointment awaiting those who went, sometimes spitting in their wrath that any cat should be so foolish as to go on such a wild-goose chase after happiness, just as human folk croak over other people’s experiments. It is too much to expect that cats can always be better than human beings, at least that all cats can.
But Purrington was not a failure; on the contrary it was a great success; and, when it had been built in two weeks, and everything was in running order, and the Purrers were quite sure that their plan was working well, Bidelia and Madam Laura resolved to give a tea to celebrate the founding of the city.
A great many ladies had come to the town by this time, so there was no trouble about getting together plenty of guests for the tea. Doctor Thomas Traddles’s school was by this time grown to thirty scholars, for most of the ladies who had moved to Purrington, like Bidelia, brought with them two or three children—and one came to town with five kittens!
The cards to the tea were issued three days in advance, and were delivered at each house—there were more houses built by this time to shelter all the new arrivals—by a small, gray cat called Posty, whose duty it was to deliver the mails and to keep the post-office.
“One came to town with five kittens.”
“A small, gray cat called Posty.”
The cards ran thus: “Mrs. Bidelia Purplay requests the pleasure of your company to tea on June 10th, from four to six. Music.”
There was not a cat omitted in these invitations, because the founders of Purrington had talked the matter over in private and had agreed that it would never do to allow any division and jealousy in the town such as is caused by social sets, and one person looking down upon another, and snubbing him. It was not easy for Ban-Ban, Kiku-san, Bidelia, and Tommy Traddles to bring themselves to treat everybody exactly alike, for there is nothing on earth so lofty by nature as a cat, and these four had been used only to fashionable society. However, they made up their minds that they must do whatever was for the general good, and treat all the Purrers of Purrington with the same neighbourly kindness.
Bidelia hoped that by having her tea continue from four to six she would escape crowding her parlour, in which there was not any too much room; but, by five minutes to four, there was a stirring in the streets, heads poking out of windows and doors to see if any one were starting, and before the French clock on Bidelia’s parlour cabinet had struck half-past four, all her guests had arrived.
Of course nobody would have missed this first social event in Purrington for their whiskers, but there had been a good deal said from one to another about Bidelia’s giving a tea. Nobody seemed to think that tea would be very enjoyable.
“It’s all very well to be fashionable,” said the mother of the five kittens—Daisy Bell was her name—“but tea! Whoever heard of a cat that would so much as smell of tea? I should have thought that Mrs. Bidelia Purplay could have found something better to have asked us to than tea! I told my eldest daughter not to be surprised if I came home down sick. Tea! Of all things!”
This was said as Daisy Bell came to the tea—one of the very earliest to arrive she was, too, in spite of her dislike for tea—and her neighbour, Mrs. Blotch, to whom she was talking, fully agreed with her.
Judge, then, the pleasure of these ladies when, on entering Bidelia’s house, a strong odour of catnip met their twitching noses. Here is where breeding tells; Daisy Bell’s manners were not proof against this surprise and the tempting odour.
“Dear me!” she cried, as she came in,—before she had so much as inquired after her hostess’s children, mind you,—“Dear me! How strong that catnip smells! Are you giving a catnip tea? I wouldn’t have dreaded coming if I’d have known that!”
“Did you dread coming?” inquired Bidelia, pleasantly. “I am very sorry. Of course it is a catnip tea. I never thought of stating it on my cards, because I thought everybody would understand. A Five O’Clock Catnip Tea. Why, of course it is. What other kind of a tea would I care to give, or you care to come to?”
“No other kind,” said Daisy Bell, promptly. “What do we do?”
“If you will go into my bedroom you will find Puttel there to take your things, and help you in any little way that you may need help; she acts as my maid to-day. Then, when your fur is arranged and you are quite ready, if you will be so kind as to come back to me I will take you to the dining-room. Madam Laura is good enough to pour for me to-day.”
Daisy Bell did not know what Bidelia meant by pouring for her, but she kept silent, for there was something in little Bidelia’s easy and gracious manner that made Daisy Bell, and Mrs. Blotch, too, conscious that they had not her advantages of education and social experience.
They had not got their things off and their fur smoothed down, and their ribbons retied, before other ladies came, and still others, until Bidelia’s small bedroom was crowded, and Puttel had to give the first comers a hint to go out to her mother, for everybody seemed to dread to make the first move to go back to the parlour.
In the meantime the gentlemen had been arriving, hardly less prompt than the ladies, which is not strange, because it was curiosity that brought them all so early, and cats are the most curious of creatures, the gentlemen just as curious as the ladies among them—wherein they are very different, you know, from human creatures.
Bidelia was busy receiving her guests, and ushering them out to the dining-room, where Madam Laura was pouring catnip tea at the table out of a very big urn indeed. The table was beautifully set with charming saucers and plates of glass and silver, and decorated with bunches of catnip in the centre and at each corner, connected by long loops of sky-blue ribbon. There were thin slices of cold meat, little cakes of puppy biscuits, cut into fancy shapes, crackers, cheese, cream in a large bowl, like a punch-bowl on a side-table, and ice-cream—melted ice-cream, of course, as all sensible people with good, catlike tastes prefer it.
Bidelia had cups for the catnip tea which had come down to her from her greatest of grandmothers, nobody knows how many generations ago, for the cups were nearly a hundred years old, and in a hundred years cats lay by a great length of grandmothers. These cups were small at the bottom and flaring at the top, like little bowls, and they had no handles. They were a grayish china, with dark blue border and little sprigs of dark blue flowers in the bottoms, which the guests could not see until they had lapped up their tea to the last drop.
Dolly Varden handed around tea and the other refreshments. The crowd grew so great that there was not room after awhile to set the cups on the floor. Ever so many were waiting to be served, and one could see from their rising fur that this was annoying them dreadfully.
Tommy Traddles saw this, too, and he whispered to Bidelia.
“Certainly,” she said aloud, and Tommy Traddles turned to the guests.
“Our hostess has provided us with an entertainment, in which I have the honour to be of some assistance, as the master of the Purrington school,” he said. “When you have enjoyed sufficiently the hospitality of this room will you please go out upon the lawn, where the music announced on the cards of invitation will be given.”
The instant Doctor Traddles had finished speaking more than half the guests hastened out on the lawn, anxious to secure the best places to see and hear, for cats do not always behave unselfishly; perhaps they have followed the bad example of human beings, of whom a few are always trying to get the best of everything for themselves.
Here the fond and proud parents found all the kittens of Purrington, little girls and little boys, drawn up in a row, their eyes as bright as they could be, their noses quivering with nervous impatience, and their little tails all straight up in the air above their backs like so many fur-covered slate-pencils. The kittens all wore ribbons crossed under the left foreleg and tied in a bow on the right shoulder. The boys wore pink, the girls blue ribbons, and the scholars who had done well in school had each a little silvered bell tied around the throat by a narrow ribbon, matching in colour the wider one around the shoulder.
The murmurs that arose from the guests on the lawn reached the ears of those remaining in the dining-room, who hastily finished their catnip tea and swallowed their last bites of cold meat and puppy biscuit cakes, lapped the final drops of their ice-cream, and hurried after the ladies and gentlemen on the lawn.
“Dear friends,” said Bidelia in a faint little voice, for she was frightened to speak to so many cats, all with their eyes fixed on her and with their tails slightly waving. “Dear friends, with Doctor Traddles’s help I have got together our blessed kittens to help me entertain you, and to prove what great progress they are making in school. First, my dancing class will show you a figure, a new figure, in the cotillion. It is called: The Chase of the Tails.”
’Clipsy, who, being black, had a natural talent for music, and particularly for playing the violin, took his place with his fiddle over his shoulder, precisely as you see the cat in “High, Diddle, Diddle.” Nearly all the kittens stepped out into the middle of the lawn, stuck their tails out straight, and waited. ’Clipsy played a few bars softly and then dashed into a lively air, that made every eye in the place spread its pupil ’way to the beginning of its white line, so exciting was this music.
Instantly every kitten made a rapid, low bow, and then danced a few steps to the right, a few to the left, leaped into the air, turned its soft body half-way around as it came down, and slapped at its own tail with its right forepaw. The music changed into other time, and with it the dancing steps of the kittens changed also. Swinging and swaying, the kittens began to spin around after their tails, keeping perfect time to the exciting music, whirling faster and faster, until all one could see were so many soft, varied-coloured balls of graceful kits, spinning, dashing, running, skipping, snatching after the tails that they never quite caught, never losing the swing of the dance, never losing the fun of the thing, until all the cats looking on were quite wild themselves with the delight of it and pride in their children. Fancy, if one kitten running after its tail is funny and charming, what it must have been to have seen twenty-two kittens, in a circle, trying to catch their tails in a mazy dance, perfectly performed!
“We’ve had the time of our lives!” cried Posty, jumping up in the air himself, and giving a wild mew, because he could not help doing it.
“Let us give Mrs. Bidelia a vote of thanks,” proposed Ban-Ban, remembering how he had been publicly thanked for bringing the cow into Purrington.
“Three cheers instead!” cried Wutz-Butz, who wanted to let off steam in some way.
The three cheers were instantly given, for all the cats felt precisely as Wutz-Butz did, that they must give vent to their feelings, so wrought up by the dance, or fly into small pieces on the spot.
Bidelia dropped a beautiful curtsey. “Thank you, dear friends,” she said. “I am glad that you consider our first social event in Purrington a success. Before you go will you join in a song? The kittens will lead us, because they know it best.”
A large kitten, whose voice was already changing from soprano to tenor, started the air of “Old Kentucky Home,” in which all the kittens, and most of the cats, joined at once, singing the following words:
“We are cosy ev’ry night,
And we’re happy ev’ry day,
In this Pussy-town we call Purrington;
We have just enough of work,
And we’ve just enough of play
To keep us ever purring on.
Chorus: “Then hasten, all ye pussies,
Oh, come, our joy to see.
For we’re happy little kits,
And we’ve danced ourselves to bits,
In honour of Bidelia’s Catnip Tea.
“In the world we’ve left behind
Where the houses grow in blocks,
We were often far from safe and warm,
And the hands that ought to stroke,
Sometimes gave us cruel knocks;
But in Purrington we’re out of reach of harm.
Chorus: “Then sing aloud, dear pussies,
And purr your joy and glee!
For here we’ve made a home,
Whence we never more will roam,
And we’re grateful for Bidelia’s Catnip Tea.”
THE SCAMPISHNESS OF SCAMP
t is hard to imagine a cloud crossing the sky of Pussy-Cat Town; but Purrington was growing larger, and, among a good many people, even cat people, there must be some who are not quite happy, and some who are not quite good.
Kiku-san was the only one of all the citizens of Purrington who was really unhappy, though Ban-Ban had many moments when his shining gray fur covered homesickness and longing for Robin. But Ban-Ban had a certain brightness about him, a snap-and-go which made it impossible for him to give up to downright unhappiness. Kiku-san, however, had a different nature. Gentle, clinging, and most affectionate, he could not shake off trouble when it found him, and Kiku-san was so homesick, so lonely for gentle little Lois, in whose arms he had slept all his life, and against whose cheek it had been his daily custom to rub his own cheek again and again, the while that he cooed softly to her, telling her of his love for her, that not all the charms of Purrington, nor the thought that it was making so many friendless cats rich and happy, could cheer his little heart.
Bidelia, too, had a growing anxiety that might prove to be a grief. Nugget was getting more and more under the influence of Scamp, and that influence was not for good. Nugget had always been as obedient as Puttel and Dolly Varden, and very proud of his young little mother, perfectly happy to trot beside her, and glad to have other kittens see how much he loved her. But now Nugget thought it was catly to pretend not to love Bidelia very much, and even to dare to spit—softly, under his breath, to be sure,—but still to spit,—when she told him to do something for her, or when she forbade him to go out.
So far Nugget had not done anything wrong, or outright wrong; but Bidelia was not a silly mother, and, even though she had not had experience in bringing up kittens until these three were born, she knew quite well that nobody goes wrong all at once, but that from small beginnings comes great harm, and she worried over Nugget’s impertinent manner.
She felt certain that he was only foolish, like some human children whom she had known, who thought it proved them quite grown up if only they were saucy and unmannerly, and she knew that the change in Nugget came from the bad example of Scamp, whose naughtiness was of a much more serious sort than Nugget’s had yet become.
She could not take Nugget out of school, away from Scamp altogether, as she would have liked to do, because she was too busy to teach him herself, and he was getting on beyond anything. Tommy Traddles said that Nugget was one of his best scholars, that he could subtract three tails from seven mice, and seven mice from eleven rats, all in his head as quick as a cat could wink. And that he knew the tables of jumps and pounces better than any one else in the school, and could tell in a twinkling how many jumps made one good pounce. In grammar he led his class, being able to tell in what case every mew noun was the moment he heard it, and he could decline purring verbs in the passive voice, or spitting verbs in the active voice in a way that delighted his teacher’s heart, for Doctor Traddles was particularly fond of grammar.
So Nugget went to school every day, and thus saw Scamp constantly. Scamp sought Nugget’s society more than any other kitten there; he seemed to take a fancy to the quick-witted little yellow fellow, and perhaps liked to lead a good kitten into paths of naughtiness—there are many with that sort of taste.
One day Scamp spoke to Nugget as they met in the schoolroom doorway, after recess.
“Come with me to-night,” he said. “I’m going fishing in the Meuse, and we’ll have fun. Bring some bait; I scratched up worms in our garden.”
“I don’t have to have worms for bait,” said Nugget, proudly. “I learned how to fish with just my paw. I guess I can’t go, though.”
Now Scamp knew that Nugget had been taught to fish with his paw, and that was why he particularly wanted him to go fishing that evening. But this he would not own, so he said: “Why can’t you? There won’t be any one but just us two. We’ll have fun, I tell you.”
“My mother won’t let me——” began Nugget, but stopped himself, ashamed to say that he could not go for that reason, though there could hardly have been a better one.
“Before I’d be tied to my mammy’s tail! Cry-kitten, ’fraid-cat!” sneered Scamp.
“My mother says the river is dangerous at night,” said Nugget.
“How does she know? A little cat like her!” said Scamp. “Did she ever go there, then? You’re no good, Nugget. I don’t care; I’ll get some one else. I only wanted to give you first chance! ’Fore I’d stay home for my mother! If you was any good you’d get up and go, and tell her afterward! You could hide, and I’d bring you supper, and then we’d go. I don’t care, though! There’s plenty ain’t ’fraid-cats, if you are. Stay home, and let your mother lick your eyes open, if you want to!”
This was an unbearable taunt. No kitten can endure to have another say this to him. It means, among kittens, that you are a baby, not yet nine days old, and not bright enough to get your own eyes open.
Foolish little Nugget had not enough strength of character to treat these taunts with the contempt they deserved. He had not time to think, because they were standing in the schoolroom doorway, and were likely to be called to their places at any moment. So Nugget answered quickly, under the spur of this stinging taunt: “Who’s afraid? I didn’t want to go, but I will go, just to show you!”
He didn’t see the smirk which curled Scamp’s whiskers, and which he put up his paw to hide; but Nugget went to his seat a very sober kitten, and it was with a heavy heart that, after school was dismissed, instead of going home to Bidelia, as usual, he followed Scamp to the place where he was to await his coming to go fishing.
It was not at all exciting, either, to eat his supper, which Scamp brought him, under the trees, and then to follow his unfriendly friend along the line of the woods to the river, when it had grown too dark for them to be seen. Nugget had hoped that at least it would be thrilling to steal along this way, keeping out of sight, but the thrills were the wrong sort, for it was chilly, and dreadfully dark. If he had told the truth, Nugget would have said that he was afraid, and that the heart under his golden fur ached for the mother whom he was treating so badly.
Scamp had said that the fish would bite better at night than by daylight. Nugget had listened to this statement with the awe that a small kitten feels for the wisdom of a larger one. It did not prove to be such very wise wisdom after all. The fishes did not bite Scamp’s bait, not once, nor would they swim where Nugget could scoop them up in his little yellow paw, a trick at which he had become very skilful, thanks to Madam Laura’s teaching. It was too dark to see them plainly when they did swim up to the surface and near to the shore; even a kitten’s eyes were misled by the ripples of the water under the stars, and Nugget often dipped for the fish too soon, or too late, or when there was no fish there.
Nugget was so miserable that he had hard work to keep from mewing. Scamp was entirely changed in his manner to the poor little naughty thing that he had led astray. Now that he had got Nugget to do what he wanted him to, he seemed not to care for him in the least; he snubbed him, paid no attention to the younger kitten’s remarks, and often walked off to fish at some distance from Nugget, leaving the kitten to struggle with a fear that every moment was growing more unbearable—it was the first time in his short life that Nugget had ever been out after dark without a grown cat to look after him.
Scamp came back just in time to catch a whine which, in spite of himself, escaped Nugget, a sort of mew with his lips shut; but, so far from being sorry for Nugget, he fell into a great rage as he heard the kitten’s moan, and he walked up to him sidewise, with his fur bristling and his claws sticking out, ready for a scratch.
“What’s the matter with you, you cry-kitten?” he demanded, growlingly. “’fraid your mother’ll spank you when you get home?”
He spoke so roughly, so angrily, that Nugget lost heart altogether, and burst forth into open mewing. “I wouldn’t care if she did,” he wailed. “I wouldn’t care what she did, if only I was home again where she could do it.”
“Scamp looked over him scornfully.”
Scamp looked him over scornfully, but Nugget’s spirit was gone; not a hair on his body rose the higher for the look.
“Next time I ask a cry-kitten to go fishin’ you’ll know it,” said Scamp, spitting.
“I wouldn’t go with you if you did,” said Nugget, not resenting being called “cry-kitten,” or pretending not to know for whom the name was intended. “I’ll never go anywhere with you again, Scamp Alloy, not anywhere, day or night. You make me bad; mamma says so, and it’s true, and now you make me frightened, and cold, and tired, and everything besides.”
Nugget put both paws before his face and mewed fast and furiously. He did not see Scamp nor the way he walked up close to him, still sidewise, with his ears back and his fur bristling. Nugget was sitting close to the river’s edge, too busy with his trouble to think of anything else. So, when Scamp got up to him, he was not ready for the hard blow that bad kitten gave him on the side of his bowed yellow head, and it sent him flying out almost into the middle of the stream.
Scamp was so frightened by what he had done that, after an instant, in which he stood staring at the circles in the water eddying around the spot where Nugget had sunk, he took to his heels and ran away for his life, leaving Nugget to get out or die as best he could.
While these dreadful things were happening by the river, the cats at home were having hours of misery over Nugget’s disappearance. When he did not come home to supper, and Dolly and Puttel reported that they had not seen him since school was dismissed, Bidelia’s heart misgave her. Ban-Ban and Kiku-san looked at Nugget’s delay from the brighter side, and comforted her by telling her it was caused by the kitten’s stopping to play, or getting into some comparatively harmless mischief, as kittens will. But after the supper, which Bidelia pushed away untasted, was over, even Ban-Ban and Kiku-san began to look serious, as Nugget did not turn up, and they each went out to inquire among their friends if any one had seen little Nugget.
When they came back without tidings of the lost kitten Bidelia sat down half-fainting, mewing piteously. Then she sprang up, took her little girls each by a paw, hurried them over to Madam Laura’s, and then rushed from house to house, calling upon all the Purrers of Purrington to turn out and search for her child.
It did not take long to learn from Alloy, his mother, that Scamp was missing, too. Alloy laughed at Bidelia for her fears, being quite accustomed to Scamp’s doing precisely what he pleased, coming home exactly when he was ready to come. But Bidelia was made only the more anxious at the thought that her little kitten should be missing in such bad company as Scamp’s.
Twenty cats joined in the search for Nugget. Ban-Ban darted hither and thither; Tommy Traddles beat every bush and scanned every hole in his thorough way; and Kiku-san walked beside Bidelia, one paw around the afflicted little cat, talking to her in his gentle, cooing way, and keeping up her courage as none of the others could do. As they walked, searching sorrowfully, the cats sang these words to the air of “Long, Long Ago:”
“When our loved kittens wander away,
Sad are our hearts, bitter our pain;
Sobbing, we mew through the long empty day,
Hoping they’ll answer again.
Oh, little Nugget, had’st thou been wise,
Thy mother’s counsel thou would’st not despise!
But through our errors life’s lessons we learn;
All is forgiven; oh, return!”
The last two lines of the music they repeated, singing, over and over again: “Nugget, oh, come! Nugget, oh, come!” hoping that the kitten would hear and call to them. After some time they were rewarded by hearing afar a faint, a very faint and feeble mew.
MRS. BRINDLE BRINGS STARTLING NEWS
he twenty cats broke into a run at the sound of that weak mew. Although it was not repeated, with their keen eyes, made to see in the dark, and their keen noses, made to smell out all kinds of the micest secrets, they had no trouble in finding poor little Nugget. There he lay on the bank, hardly beyond the reach of the water, wet, cold, too exhausted to mew again, although he could hear with his failing senses the voices of the Purrers come to secure him.
Kiku-san saw him first, and gently pointed him out to Bidelia, afraid as he did so that they had come too late, that Nugget was already dead. The delicate legs hung limp, the head had fallen forward, the eyes, still half-blue in colour, were glazed, and the mouth that had called them was open.
Bidelia stiffened with dread as she saw her kitten, but instantly darted forward, calling: “M-m-m-mmmmm!” That coaxing mother-note in which all cats call their kittens so lovingly. As she cooed to Nugget, she bent over him, nosing him, licking him frantically, yet with the wisest, strongest strokes, for, young as she was, and without having taken a course of First Aids to the Injured, her mother-love taught her how best to bring Nugget back.
“Licking him frantically.”
Her friends stood by watching the little mother, herself scarcely more than a kitten, anxiously hoping that she would warm Nugget into life. And she did. Though a few minutes longer delay and the rescuers would have come too late, Nugget was still on the right side of the line between life and death when he was found, and he rewarded his mother’s rapid work on his limp little body by moving a paw and uttering another plaintive little mew.
“Let us help you,” cried Daisy Bell and Mrs. Blotch, while the other cats heaved a sigh of relief, well knowing that if Nugget turned to come back to them the battle was as good as won. Daisy Bell and Mrs. Blotch, experienced in the care of kittens, fell to licking with Bidelia, and did it with so much good-will that the soft, wet little form rocked back and forth on the grass, and the kitten soon opened both eyes as the grateful warmth of the busy tongues dried his yellow fur and set his chilled blood in motion.
Bidelia licked around the kitten’s face, and Nugget put both paws around her neck.
“I’m dreadful sorry, mamma,” he whispered, so sincerely that he forgot to speak like Tommy Traddles’s best grammar scholar.
“Yes, dear, but I’m only glad just now that you are safe,” Bidelia whispered back.
“Scamp coaxed me to go fishing with him; I didn’t want to, but he said I was ’fraid-cat, so I went,” Nugget continued. “He was ugly after he got me here, and I mewed, so he pushed me into the water, and ran away. I kept up, and kept swimming—I don’t see how I swam; nobody taught me.”
“Oh, everybody knows how to swim without teaching, everybody except human beings,” said Bidelia. “Go on, dearest.”
“I swam, but I could not get to shore,” sobbed Nugget. “Not for the longest, longest time! And I felt so weak, and I was so frightened, and it was so dark, and there were you and Dolly and Puttel all safe at home, and I thought I was never going to see you—” Nugget broke off, sobbing with all his might.
“There, there, dear, darling little Nugget, don’t talk about it, don’t tell me any more now!” said Bidelia, soothing him by the softest kisses and pats. “I know all about it. At last you did get to the bank, and crawled up, and lay there dying, when you heard the good Purrers singing to you, and gathered strength for just one tiny mew; just enough, dear, to save you. And now you’re going to get well fast, and we are going to take you home where Mrs. Brindle has warm milk for you, and never, never again are you going to be a naughty kitten, and disobey your little mother. Isn’t that it, my poor little Nugget?”
Nugget cuddled down close into Bidelia’s soft neck. “That’s right, mamma,” he said.
Bidelia gave a few quick purrs of happiness. It really was worth Nugget’s suffering and her own misery to have her kitten freed for ever from the bad influence of Scamp. She turned to her friends with a bright smile. “How shall we get this poor, naughty kitten home, dear Purrers? He is far too weak to walk.”
“We’ll make a cat’s-cradle,” said Ban-Ban, promptly.
Now a cat’s-cradle is not what most of us understand it to be. The real cat’s-cradle, from which the one we make with strings got its name, is made in this manner: an equal number of cats form themselves into two lines, walking abreast, one line behind the other. The rear line gently takes into its mouths the tips of the tails in the front line, which thus form, as one can easily see, a sort of hammock upon which a kitten, or any not too great weight, may be carried.
In this case ten cats made a line abreast, and ten more, in another line abreast, took the tips of the ten preceding tails into their mouths, and Nugget was laid on the cradle thus made, whereon he swung as easily as a Baltimore oriole in its nest, and slept peacefully while his kind protectors bore him home.
Madam Laura, with Dolly Varden and Puttel, were at the door of the apartment-house, eagerly watching for the return of the search-party. It was the shriek of glad mews which they raised that woke Nugget from his sleep of exhaustion, and told him that he was once more with his sisters, whose qualities as “mere girl kittens” he no longer despised, since they had been good, while he had been both foolish and naughty.
Bidelia, Laura, Ban-Ban, and Wutz-Butz took Nugget at once to Mrs. Brindle’s house to get her to give the poor kitten some warm milk.
As soon as she saw them the cow uttered a long moo of welcome. “I thought you would never get here to-night,” she said when they were within hearing. “I have news for you that I could hardly wait to tell you.”
“Nugget has been lost and nearly drowned,” said Ban-Ban. “We were out hunting for him. Will you please let down some milk for him while you are telling us your news?”
“I was out walking to-day over at the other side of the woods,” Brindle began at once, as she obligingly let down her foaming milk into the pan Ban-Ban offered her. Cows never waste time beating around the bush when they have anything to say. “I came upon something there that shocked me. Purrington is in danger.”
“In danger from what?” demanded Ban-Ban, who was always the one with whom Brindle preferred to talk, as he was her first friend among the Purrers.
“There is a settlement of dogs over there,” said Brindle, gravely. “The place is called Dog Corners. I heard the dogs talking. They were saying that they had just learned of the existence of Purrington, and that they meant to attack the city, destroy it, and capture or kill all the cats in it.
“They never dreamed that I, a cow, was one of the people of Purrington,” she added, nodding her head up and down as a low growl of indignant horror arose from her hearers; even Nugget stopped drinking to join in it. “The dogs talked freely, although they saw me standing there. I half-shut my eyes, and pretended to be interested in nothing but my cud. But you may be sure I listened to every word, and I have been nervous ever since because no one came near me to be warned of the danger.”
Wutz-Butz stood with his feet braced, and every separate hair bristling with fury. “It may come to-night,” he growled very low, and Ban-Ban, Laura, and Bidelia understood that he meant the dogs’ attack on Purrington, and thrilled at his words.
“There isn’t a moment to lose. We must consult the others, and arrange for meeting this attack,” cried Ban-Ban. “Bidelia and Madam Laura, Wutz-Butz and I must leave you to bring Nugget home when you are ready. Mrs. Brindle, you are a cow in a thousand. You are full of the milk of human kindness and fidelity to your friends. We will do something to prove how we appreciate you when this danger is past. Wutz-Butz, come on!” And Ban-Ban flew like a streak of quick-silver—he was about the same colour—down the street, and Wutz-Butz flew after him as fast as his greater weight allowed.
The big bell in the town hall had never been rung. When it was hung Doctor Traddles had given a lecture in the hall on an incident in Scottish history, when one of the lords had asked in council who would bell the cat. Doctor Traddles pointed out that they, being cats, would reverse the order of the question, and ask: Who will bell the council-room? It was considered a most happy allusion, and Tommy Traddles’s wit was still quoted. But the bell had never, till this day, been rung. Now it pealed forth, calling together all the Purrers of Purrington for a council of war.
Wutz-Butz, as the most experienced soldier, was in the chair, presiding over the meeting. The cats looked very serious. An attack on their city by dogs was not a thing to be regarded lightly.
“Gentlemen,” said Wutz-Butz, after a hasty whispered consultation with Tommy Traddles as to the proper way to proceed with the meeting, “I should be glad to hear from you what you consider the best way to meet the attack which Mrs. Brindle has warned us that the dogs of Dog Corners intend to make upon us.”
There were a great many good fighters in Purrington now, thanks to the number of cats who had joined the first settlers, and who had spent their days fighting for their lives in the human city’s streets; but they were better fighters than talkers, and no one responded to Wutz-Butz’s request for advice as to the best method of meeting the danger threatening them.
Finally Ban-Ban arose, looking around at the council. “I am not a fighting cat,” he said, “but since those who are seem shy about addressing us, let me state my opinion and offer my advice on the matter before us. We all know that those who attack are better placed than those who are attacked. They have but themselves to take care of, while the attacked have to consider their wives and children, and suffer the loss of their homes if the attack is at all successful. Hence I propose that, instead of waiting in Purrington for the dogs to attack us, we march on Dog Corners and wipe it off the map. We will send Brindle to find out when the dogs will be away, because, if they are free dogs, they must go off on long runs—even pet dogs do that. When we find out that most of the fighting dogs are absent, we will fall on their settlement and put to flight every puppy in it. It is right for us to do this, because as long as there is a dog village so near Purrington we shall never be safe.”
This speech, plain and to the point, was received with great applause. It was moved, seconded, and carried that the Purrers of Purrington should make war upon Dog Corners on the first day possible. Wutz-Butz was appointed Commander of the Cats, with ’Clipsy second in command, and Tommy Traddles and Ban-Ban staff-officers, for consultation.
A city guard was appointed for that night to patrol the streets and alarm the Purrers should the attack be made at once. Then the meeting broke up, but not until the cats had sung, to the air of “Hail Columbia:”
“Let the wild dogs now beware,
We are bristling up our hair;
We have now unsheathed our claws,
We have made our martial laws,
And, when dogs shall dare attack,
With growls and spits we’ll drive them back!
For Purrington we’ll make a fight,
Strong, because our cause is right.
Liberty! our countersign;
You for yours, but I for mine!
Chorus: “Like one cat we’ll meet the foe;
Like one paw we’ll lay him low.
Courage, then, Cat Heroes! Draw
Claws, and strike with heart in paw!”
THEY FOUGHT LIKE CATS AND DOGS!
here is only one way to catch anything, and that is: Pounce on it!”
Wutz-Butz was the speaker; he was addressing his soldiers, drawn up before him, ready for the fray. Brindle had early made her way to Dog Corners, and returned with the report that on this day the majority of the dogs were to be away from their village on a hunting trip. If the Purrers wished to attack there could not be a better time than the present to do so.
There had been a discussion as to the best way of attacking the enemy, and Wutz-Butz, as General of the Cats, was giving his opinion.
“There is only one way,” he said, “to catch anything, and that is: Pounce on it! How do you catch a mouse? Crouch low, keep the tip of your tail wagging, whiskers forward, eyes fixed front, muscles taut—then: Jump! Isn’t that the way? Well, then; there is no other way to capture anything. A village is precisely like a mouse, only bigger—”
A murmur of dissent arose at this statement, and Wutz-Butz hastily explained.
“I mean,” he said, quickly, “in principle. In principle there is no difference between a mouse and a village, except in size. That difference is evened up by there being so many of us. One cat catches the little mouse; many cats catch the large village. And there you are! The only way for us to do is to march softly to Dog Corners, and when we get there to form a circle all around it. Then we must crouch down, fix our eyes on the village—it will be awful! A lot of big, staring eyes all around the walls! Then we must prick our ears forward, moving them a little at the tips, to catch every sound, and keep our whiskers stiff, and the tips of our tails moving, moving ever so little. We must hold our muscles taut, ready! And then I will give a tiny, tiny spit, and then—Like one cat we must pounce together, up in the air and down on the village, claws out and backs stiff! And then Dog Corners will be taken!”
All the soldiers purred together, like the roll of a drum. The programme as laid out by their general sounded so attractive!
“Are you ready?” cried ’Clipsy, facing the troops.
“Yes!” shouted the army, as one cat.
“Will you follow us to danger and—if need be—to death?” demanded ’Clipsy.
“Yes, yes, miauw, miauw!” shrieked the soldiers, deeply stirred.
“Then forward! March!” cried Wutz-Butz, wheeling about and taking a few steps in the direction of Dog Corners.
Instantly the column was in motion, and soon the women and children cats left behind in Purrington could see only tips of tails proudly waving in the air, which, an instant later, were lost to sight in a cloud of dust.
The army marched at double-quick through the woods, the padded feet of the soldiers making no sound on the dry leaves and pine-needle carpet over which they marched.
Dog Corners lay, as they thought, at some distance from Purrington. Mrs. Brindle had said that it took her three hours to reach it. The Purrers did not realize the difference that there was between the awkward gait of the big cow and the swift trot of their own lithe bodies until they came within hailing distance of Dog Corners most unexpectedly, and at the expiration of a little less than two hours’ time.
Wutz-Butz softly ordered a halt, and then detailed his sub-officers to lead four divisions of the army, which were to separate, march around the village, and then take up their positions, with an officer at the four points of the compass. The army would join its divisions, forming a cordon around the enemy, according to the announcement of his plans made by General Wutz-Butz before starting out.
With a speed and silence most creditable to soldiers whose only experience in fighting heretofore had been in single combats, these orders were carried out.
Swiftly and noiselessly the four detachments marched to surround the village, and took up their positions, with the ends of the detachments united to form a single line, encircling Dog Corners.
Regarding the village as a gigantic mouse which they were to seize as a single cat, as their skilful leader had bidden them, the cats crouched, eyes forward, whiskers set, ears pointed, tails moving, muscles tense, ready to pounce at the word of command. Wutz-Butz led at the main gate. His followers listened for the spit that was to be the signal of onslaught.
Hark! Was that it? No; it was but the heavy breathing of an old soldier, his asthma increased by excitement. But at last—
“Ready to pounce.”
Ban-Ban caught the sound first, and repeated it. The four officers spit together. Instantly the entire army arose in the air in a great, curving heap, legs out, claws extended, and pounced on the village, like one great cat on one large mouse!
Panic seized the dogs left at home, little dreaming of what was to befall them that beautiful morning. There were dogs of various sizes and colours, and, though the greatest fighters had gone hunting, there were quite enough in the village to have made its capture go hard with the cats, had it not been that their attack was so sudden and entirely unexpected.
Just as they had sprung on the village walls, the cats sprang on the backs of its citizens, of course not touching the puppies, for it was not their part to make war on babies. The howls with which the appearance of the army of cats on the walls had been hailed turned into a chorus of yelps as each dog felt the sharp claws of a cat in his back. The dogs were bigger than the cats, and more used to fighting, but the nervous strength of the attacking party more than made up for their smaller size and less heavy muscles. The dogs tried to shake off their riders, but the claws did their work well, and the Purrers stuck like burrs, each soldier to his foe, scratching away and calling upon the dog to give up, until the citizens of Dog Corners were half-frantic.
One big yellow dog took the lead. “We can’t run around here!” he cried. “Follow me!” So saying, he dashed for the main gate, his comrades after him, and made for the woods, each with a cat on his back, running for dear life to escape from the torment which was fastened on every back.
Two miles from Dog Corners the wild ride slackened. Wutz-Butz discovered that the big yellow dog carrying him was the King of the Dogs, for Dog Corners was not a republic, like Purrington, but lived under a king, it being necessary for dogs to have some one to obey, while cats always rule themselves.
“Each with a cat on his back.”
When Wutz-Butz discovered that he was riding the king, he stopped clawing him, and asked him to halt for a moment. Rex—of course that was the king-dog’s name—was only too glad to do so; he was fearfully out of breath, and his tongue ached from lolling so far.
“Look here, King,” said Wutz-Butz—if it had been Tommy Traddles he would have begun differently, for his reading would have taught him to salute a king, in opening his remarks, with the words: “O king, live for ever!” For that is the only correct way to open regal conversation. However, Wutz-Butz, being a soldier and not a scholar, said: “Look here, King, I don’t care about dog-back riding all the morning, and I guess you’ve got about enough of carrying me. I’m the general of this army. We came down upon you because we had certain proof that you were coming to take our town, and capture or kill all of us. We didn’t seem to care about waiting at home for that kind of visitors, so we hit first—it’s the best way, if there’s got to be a fight. We’re not scrappy over at Purrington, and we don’t want fusses with our neighbours, for one thing, and we don’t want neighbours who are liable to drop down on us, for another. Now we’ve got you beat, and we’ll never get off your backs till you give in to our terms.”
“What are your terms?” panted Rex, sadly.
“Easy enough. You’re to move out of this region altogether, and give up Dog Corners to us. We will go back there and tear it all down, and there’ll be no more dogs and no more corners—we’ll round them off!” And Wutz-Butz chuckled at his mild joke.
“You keep on running—without us, you see, so it will be easier—and meet your friends, while we go back and tear down your village. You tell your friends that you’re going to move—you’re king, and what you say goes—you seem to go pretty well, too, and I mean you to go farther. I don’t believe you’ll fare worse! Now, will you do it, or won’t you?”
“As a conquered king I have no choice but to accept your terms,” said Rex, in a tone so sad that it ended in a whine.
“Right you are,” said Wutz-Butz, cheerfully, not at all impressed by the king’s superior speech. “Call up your people, then, and I’ll tell mine to stop clawing while you issue your orders.”
Rex called the dogs together. “We are conquered, my people,” he said. “The terms upon which I have agreed to yield to this gentleman upon my back, who is the general of the cats, is that we remove far from Dog Corners, and go at once.”
The dogs growled at this announcement, but a claw-prick here and there reminded them that they were anxious to get rid, on almost any terms, of the soldiers clinging to them, and they changed their growl into yelps and howls of acclaim, submitting to the inevitable and the wisdom of their king.
“Now, then, Purrers,” shouted Ban-Ban, “don’t you jump off these dogs to the ground. You jump from their backs into the trees, and stay there until they are out of sight. How shall we know that they are really gone, and won’t come back?”
Rex turned on Ban-Ban a scornful face. “You look like a gentleman,” he said, “and if you are one you should know that no gentleman breaks his pledge. I give you my word that we will fulfil the terms of our surrender, and a dog is a person of honour.”
Ban-Ban felt rebuked, but ’Clipsy murmured: “You’re all right, old chap, but I wouldn’t trust all your people, if you weren’t here to keep them straight.”
“The cats watched the retreat.”
At a given signal all the dogs ran close to a tree, and his rider leaped from the back of each of them, ran up to a high bough, and from that point the cats watched the retreat of their conquered foes.
It was made without a pause, and in half an hour the cats descended and marched back to Dog Corners, which was now indeed a deserted village.
It did not take long for the strong claws of the army to tear down every building in the place. In a short time Dog Corners was no more, and only a pile of ruins showed where once it had stood.
Upon this pile of ruins the triumphant army sat to eat the lunch which the forsaken larders of the dogs amply supplied.
Then they sat for a time resting, washing their faces and cleaning their whiskers, softly rubbing their ears with the velvet paws which, but a short time before, the dogs had found so little like velvet.
“They sat for a time resting.”
At last Wutz-Butz gave the order to march home. The army formed once more in order, and returned to Purrington. They entered the town just at sunset, and as they drew near to it, those left within its walls knew that they were coming victorious, for they were marching to the tune of “Marching Through Georgia,” to which they sung the following words:
“Here we come victorious,
Our battle fought and won;
We made a Pounce most glorious—
You should have seen them run!
We’ve spent a day laborious,
But yet we tasted fun,
Driving the dogs from their Corners!
Chorus: “Hurrah, hurrah, then give us three times three!
Hurrah, hurrah, we bring you liberty!
The Purrers of dear Purrington are safe as safe can be;
We’ve wiped out the dogs and their Corners!”
BAN-BAN AND KIKU-SAN FORM AN EMBASSY
an-ban and Kiku-san were walking arm and arm, talking earnestly. It had rained, and the streets were muddy, so they had linked the right paw of one through the left arm of the other, and each carried his tail looped over his remaining elbow, to keep it perfectly dry.
“There’s no use in my trying to fight it off any longer, Bannie,” Kiku was saying, earnestly. “I want to go home. I’m not needed here; the city is able to hold its own now; but, if it weren’t, I could be spared from it—I’m not the go-ahead kind which is useful in public affairs. I’ve got to see Lois. I’m sure she hasn’t any other cat to take my place, and worries about me still. I feel as if I couldn’t stay in my fur, I long so to cuddle down in her arms and be petted.” Kiku-san’s voice broke into the saddest mew as he ended, and Ban-Ban looked serious.
“I don’t mind telling you, Kiku, though I wouldn’t have any one else in Purrington know it for the world, but I feel pretty much the same way,” he said. “Of course I’m the sort who can cut up capers, no matter what happens, but I want to see Rob, and I want to see him badly. I’m as sure that he cries nights over me as if I saw him. He thinks I’ve been killed, or got lost where I’ll suffer for food, and be abused—I know Rob! There are times when I wonder if I did right to leave him, but when I see how happy all these poor cats are in Purrington, and how well everything is going, and remember that they had no home, and no kindness until we led them here, then I feel certain again that it was more than right to leave our home. But—to be honest—now the work is done, I want to go back again, just for a visit, anyway.”
“It won’t be a visit for me,” said Kiku-san, with the decision with which very gentle people usually surprise their friends when they are once aroused. “I’m going home to Lois, and I’m going to stay there. I won’t be contented, though, Ban, if I have to leave you behind: come with me!”
“Now wait a bit, Kiku-san, and we’ll try to manage it,” said Ban-Ban. “I don’t want to have the other Purrers feel as though I had deserted them. I’m not much good at patient waiting myself,—that’s more in your line,—but I see that there may something turn up that will let us go back—for a visit; I don’t dare promise to stay—without our seeming to run away. You see, I feel responsible for the Purrers and Purrington, because this city was my idea in the first place.”
“I’ll wait a little longer, then,” sighed Kiku-san. “But it can’t be very long; I can’t stand it.”
He did not have to wait long. When anything is to be, there is always a way made for it.
It began to be whispered through Purrington that, after all, cats were not quite fitted to live entirely without human help. The houses that the cat carpenters had put up were not warm enough for winter; there were several matters on which the Purrers felt the need of help and advice. “If there were any human beings whom we could get to come here, straighten out these trifles, and act as our friends and advisers, who could be trusted to go between Purrington and the human city, looking after us and never betraying us, we should be better off,” they said.
The question was where to find such friends, how to bring them to Purrington, and whom to select for such an important trust.
“There are plenty of people who would do it faithfully,” said Tommy Traddles. “When I was a kitten I was taken in from the street by the kindest hands, and cared for ever after. My law student, my first friend, would have stood by us and helped us to the last hour of his life.”
“When I was only four weeks old I was found by a lady in the worst, poorest part of the city,” said Bidelia. “She put me under her coat and carried me all the afternoon on several business calls which she had to make, although I cried dreadfully. When she got me home she cared for me like a baby; were it not for her I should not be here to-day. I would trust that friend of cats with our secrets.”
“You see,” added Tommy Traddles, with his customary wisdom, “cats have lived so long among people that they have become dependent upon them. I think it would be most wise to secure for ourselves such a friend as Bidelia and I have known. But these two are beyond our reach. The question is: Whom should we select, and where should we find these friends?”
Then up rose Kiku-san, his whiskers quivering with eagerness. “I can tell you,” he cried. “The little girl whom I owned, and whose love I miss more than I can say, is the very one for this position. She goes out of her way, and bears all sorts of inconvenience to help cats. She has such a tender heart that the sight of abuse of one of us makes her half-ill with grief and pity. Get Lois to help you, Purrers; she would die rather than betray you.”
“And Rob!” added Ban-Ban, springing up as Kiku-san sat down. “He is a little fellow, only eight, but he is as brave as a lion when it comes to fighting for any abused animal. He has a good mother, who has taught him that we are all one big family, the human beings, and all the dumb creatures—as they call us, because they don’t understand our language! He touches any of us as gently as a paw without claws can touch, and he plays with us as well as a kitten could—better, because he can think of more things to do. He is a brave boy, the real sort of brave boy. They are always kind, you know, and don’t pretend to be brave by doing cowardly things, such as hurting a helpless creature. I’ve heard Rob tell other boys that it was manly to be gentle, and cowardly to be cruel, because a true man was a gentle-man! There’s his mother for you again; that’s what she teaches him! Rob’s the little boy I owned. You get Rob and Lois both on your side, Purrers, and you’ll bless the day Kiku-san and I told you about them.”
’Clipsy arose as Ban-Ban sat down, shaking his head gravely. “This little Lois may be all right,” he said. “Girls are usually more or less good to us, but a boy! I’m doubtful of the wisdom of trusting a boy.”
“There are boys and boys,” said Tommy Traddles, mildly. “The right sort of boy is a brave fellow, and so must be a kind one, as Ban-Ban has said, and that sort is trustworthy, one on whom you can depend. Of course, friends and Purrers, you can rely on Ban-Ban’s judgment of the boy he owned and lived with from his kittenhood. But if you need further witnesses, let me add that Madam Laura, Bidelia, and I have known both Lois and Rob for a long time, and they are both the very ones to help us carry on our city, and be our friends through the winter that lies before us. They are both all, and more than all, that Kiku-san and Ban-Ban have said they were.”
Madam Laura and Bidelia purred their entire assent to this statement.
“Very well, then,” said ’Clipsy, “what are we to do about it, if they are such good children and good friends to cats? How shall we let them know about us, and get them to stand by us?”
Tommy Traddles and Ban-Ban had never cared much for each other, but Tommy Traddles proved at this moment how superior his nature was to personal considerations of mere fancy. That wise cat, whose thoughtful gaze saw through most cats with whom he was in close contact, had seen that Ban-Ban and Kiku-san were longing for their beloved children, and he arose now to answer ’Clipsy’s question.
“I move that Ban-Ban and Kiku-san be appointed an embassy”—the Purrers gasped at this hard word—“to wait on Lois and Rob in their own homes. They will be able, I am sure, to get the children to follow them here, and when they come we shall be able to talk to them, for you know that when they pass the gate of Purrington they will at once understand our speech. Will the Purrers who are in favour of asking Ban-Ban and Kiku-san to return to their old homes, and to bring Lois and Rob to visit us here, please signify it by holding up their right paws and saying: ‘Mew!’”
A chorus of mews filled the air, and right paws waved like a grove of pussy-willows.
“Contrary-minded, spit!” said Doctor Traddles, and waited. Not a spit was heard.
“It is a vote!” announced the Doctor. “Ban-Ban and Kiku-san, you are appointed to go to the city, the human city, as an embassy from Pussy-Cat Town, and bring here Lois and Rob to act as our advisers and friends henceforth. You will set out at your earliest convenience.”
Ban-Ban ran up to Tommy Traddles and shook his paw. “I never sufficiently appreciated you, Tommy,” he said, “but I see that you have tried to give Kiku and me happiness, and you have succeeded. Count me your devoted friend from this day forth.”
And Kiku-san came and rubbed his cheek against Tommy’s with his soft coo, which at once embarrassed the Doctor dreadfully, and pleased him beyond words.
There was a great flurry of preparation in Purrington; it was exciting to all the Purrers to feel that two among them, and one of these their founder, were returning to the world they had forsaken. Many were the messages with which Ban-Ban and Kiku-san were charged; many the errands they were asked to do, should time and chance allow them.
“Kiku-san came and rubbed his cheek against Tommy’s.”
Before starting, Kiku-san had to wash his beautiful thick white suit, for in Purrington it was the rule that each one should do his own washing.
Bidelia and Madam Laura put up a lunch for the travellers, although the distance was not great, and Wutz-Butz tried to teach them a certain stroke with the right paw, followed instantly by one of another sort with the left, which he knew, and which he said would be sufficient defence against any attack which might be made upon them on the way.
But Kiku-san refused to entertain the idea of fighting, even in self-defence, and Ban-Ban said he’d risk his four slender, fast legs to take him out of reach of danger, and so Wutz-Butz had to give up his purpose of teaching them the noble art of self-defence, to his own great disappointment.
Purrington gave its ambassadors a farewell dinner. Mr. S. Katz furnished it with his most delicious meats, and all the ladies in town cooked for it. It was such a tremendous dinner that the idea of carrying a luncheon on their journey seemed really funny to Ban-Ban and Kiku-san; they ate so much at the dinner that they could not fancy themselves ever again being hungry.
When the banquet ended all the cats rose from their chairs, and raising their glasses of distilled catnip high in the air, and keeping time with their left paws on the table to the gliding air of “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton,” sang this farewell song:
“Go forth to your old friends, dear cats, from the new,
For Purrington sends you, an embassy true;
We hope that for your sakes the children may be
The guide and the stay of our Pussy city.
Then hasten, O Ban-Ban, your steps, for you know
How blank our days and our nights when you go,
For white Kiku-san and our Founder Maltese
Are Purrington’s glory, so hasten back—please!
“Delay not, though tempted with cushions of silk;
The world’s cream is rich, but we give you love’s milk,
And better plain fare, when it’s seasoned with love,
Than banquets of kings, whom a cat’s look may prove.
Then speed ye in going, but speed ye more fast
When your whiskers are pointed due homeward at last;
Defeated, triumphant, we’ll hail your return;
With love for you, dear cats, our feline hearts burn.”
VISITORS TO PURRINGTON
an-Ban and Kiku-san started out from Purrington at a good pace, swinging along through the wood-path and out into the open road. At least Kiku swung; he had a very swinging gait, but Ban-Ban trotted along with his usual businesslike air. As they put behind them more and more length of road, and the way ahead shortened, their speed increased, driven onward by their impatience to get home. For these two petted cats found themselves thinking of their old home as “home,” and not Purrington. Nor was this strange, since they had been so short a time in Purrington, and had spent all the rest of their lives being made much of by the children to whom they were hastening.
“Their speed increased.”
They met with no particular adventures. Once a dog chased them up a tree, and again they had to run away from an old lady in a victoria, who, seeing this pair of beautiful cats hurrying along the road, side by side, ordered her driver to stop and let her try to catch them. She was a cat-lover, but to Ban-Ban and Kiku-san’s minds as much to be dreaded as the dog. However, they had no difficulty in getting away from her, since she was past the age of rapid running, and her dignity forbade her chasing cats a long distance down the public way.
Timid Kiku-san began to be exhausted from the nervousness of his journey, but Ban-Ban kept up his heart and urged him on, knowing quite well himself that there was considerable risk in travelling alone and unprotected.
But this only made that spirited cat hasten the faster, and, as they drew near the city, impatience seemed to wing each of the eight dusty paws, and they broke into a run, and reached the rear of their former homes—they stood side by side, you know—half an hour at least before they had calculated on being there.
They sat down under the fence to get their breath and brush up their dusty clothes. It was hard work to do this, for they could hear plainly the voices of Rob and Lois shouting to each other in play, and burned to rush into their arms.
It was a very hasty toilet that the travellers made. Ban-Ban sprang to his feet, shook out the places in his fur which his rapid licking had flattened, and cried: “Come on, Kiku; I won’t wait another minute!”
Kiku-san arose, shook himself also, and said: “You don’t suppose I want to wait, do you? Lois is just on the other side of that fence!” Cold print cannot convey the happiness in white Kiku-san’s voice.
They sprang together to the top of the fence. Here they paused a moment to look with purring hearts down on the old garden. There was the pink-bordered flower-bed; among its fragrant pinks Kiku-san had always loved to take his nap after lunch, when the shadow rested there. And there was the fountain, on the edge of which Ban-Ban had loved to sit and see his saucy short face reflected in the water, and from which he had been rescued once, just in time, in his early kittenhood. And there, running like colts around the corner of the house, came Lois and Rob!
That sight brought the cats down from the fence in a twinkling, and side by side they ran forward, backs and tails up, joy sparkling on their very whisker-tips. Rob and Lois stopped abruptly and gazed at the cats.
Then the garden rang with their shout: “It’s Kiku! Kiku-san and Bannie-Ban!” screamed Lois. “Kiku, my darling, Kiku, you lamb-cat, where have you been all this time?”
She gathered the happy, purring white creature into her arms and showered kisses on him, murmuring the while, too delighted to utter words. And Kiku-san rubbed his face against Lois’s, and purred and purred, and gave little mews and coos of rapture, till Lois knew the truth—that he was as glad to see her again as she was to get him back.
Rob’s face turned dark red with emotion when he saw Ban-Ban, whom he had given up as dead or lost for ever. “Why, Ban-Ban!” he managed to say, but he could hardly speak.
Ban-Ban spread his fore feet
“She gathered the happy, purring white creature into her arms.”
wide apart and put down the top of his head between them till it rested on the ground as he saw Rob coming toward him; this was Ban’s old way of showing pleasure, and it upset Rob completely.
Boys cannot cry when they feel strongly, but Rob was dangerously near tears of joy. He gathered silky Ban-Ban into his arms, Ban-Ban flattening his body against Rob’s in his old way till he fitted Rob like a Russian squirrel coat. Rob hid his excited face in Ban-Ban’s close, fine fur. “Ah, Ban!” was all he said, but Ban understood; it was quite enough, and he purred so loud he could have been heard all over the garden, for Ban-Ban was a wonderful songster.
After awhile the children were able to talk—indeed, they were not able to stop talking. They both chattered at once, exclaiming over the sleek and prosperous look the two beloveds wore, and their entire indifference to the food brought them. Where could they have been? Ban-Ban and Kiku-san ran into their respective houses ahead of the children. Like a flash Ban-Ban rushed from room to room, seeing that nothing was changed, and seeing, too, that there was no other cat nor smallest kitten in the house taking his place. Rob was constant to him. It was a great temptation to settle down in comfort and love, and never to return to Purrington! And yet not a great temptation, either, when he remembered the Purrers all waiting his return, and leaning on him as their Founder.
Kiku-san looked up into Lois’s face as he strolled from room to room in his house, finding, as Ban-Ban was finding, his place still empty. He was so glad to get home that it seemed to him that he never, never could go back to Purrington. He thought with dread of the perils of the journey which he was to take twice again, if he returned—for he had made up his mind that, with or without Ban-Ban, he was coming back to Lois when his duty toward the Purrers was done.
He looked up into Lois’s face. It was just the same sweet, old-fashioned little face as ever. Her brown hair, fine and straight, was tied with just the same big, soft ribbon; her eyes, as blue as the ribbon, looked at him with just the same look of devoted love. White Kiku mewed aloud, thinking, with pity for himself, how long it had been since he had seen this dear little gentle face.
Rob and Ban-Ban had a game of hide-and-seek that night before they went to bed. It made the Maltese cat quite crazy with joy to hear the whistle again which he had heard from his kittenhood, and to dash up and down-stairs, looking behind portières and doors for Rob, in the old way. And he puffed like a little gray porpoise from sheer excitement when he found Rob, and the boy darted out at him and chased him down-stairs, where Ban-Ban would scuttle into a place of hiding in his own turn and lie, with close-wrapped tail, while Rob looked for him, softly calling: “Where is Ban? Why, where is Ban?” But Ban-Ban knew better than to come out; he would lie as still as stillness till he was found, and then dash at Rob with all his fur on end. Oh, it was glorious! Ban-Ban thought anew that there were no comrades like human ones when a cat was lucky enough to find the right sort.
Ban-Ban went to sleep at last on Rob’s feet. But in the next house Kiku-san crept into Lois’s arms, just as he had always done, both paws around her neck, his white cheek pillowed on the little girl’s rosy one, and softly purred himself to sleep in his quiet voice, the kind of purring you can feel more plainly than you can hear. And Lois was purring, too, in her loving little heart, for she had mourned bitterly for her lost darling, and words could not have told how glad she was to have him back.
In the morning, however, Lois ran over to see Rob, Kiku-san held tight in her arms. “I don’t know what ails Kiku,” she cried, as soon as Rob and Ban-Ban were within hearing. “He acts as if he wanted to tell me something and make me go somewhere. I do wish I could understand.”
“That’s queer,” said Rob. “Ban-Ban is acting the same way. I told him a little while ago to go ahead, I’d follow him. I’m sure he wants me to go somewhere.”
Ban-Ban and Kiku-san looked at each other, and the children thought they were mewing. What they were saying, or, what Kiku-san was saying, was this: “If we’ve got to go back, Ban-Ban, we ought to go soon, for those Purrers are waiting for us anxiously. But I tell you now I am coming back here as soon as we settle things in Purrington.”
“To tell the truth I’ve about made up my mind to coming back, too,” said Ban-Ban. “But the only thing to do now is to hurry to Purrington. If only we can make these blessed children follow us! You see it will be safe enough going back by daylight if they are with us.”
“Now do hear them mew!” cried Lois, in a worried tone. “Kiku, darling, what do you want?”
“Go on, Ban-Ban; I’ll come,” said Rob at a venture. “Mamma knows I’m going out, and she’ll tell your mother, Lois.” You see he little thought what was to be the end of this walk.
He went to the outside door and set it open. Instantly Ban-Ban darted out, followed more slowly by Kiku-san, and the children went out on the steps and watched them. Both cats came back, rubbed their heads against Lois’s skirt and Rob’s knickerbockers; mewed a little; ran ahead, came back, and did everything that they could think of to coax their boy and girl to come after them.
Rob took Lois’s hand. “They want us,” he said. “It’s queer, but we must go.”
Ban-Ban immediately stood on his head, between his forepaws, in his most delighted fashion, and Kiku-san said: “M-m-m-m-mmmm!” as he always did when he was happy. And so the children knew that they were doing what their beloved cats wanted them to do, and followed steadily.
When they found that Rob and Lois fully understood what was wanted of them, Ban-Ban and Kiku-san stopped looking back at them, and swung into a steady, rapid trot.
“They know just what they want and where it is,” said Rob, wondering. Lois was too amazed to speak. Still more surprised the children grew as the cats took them briskly along the road, toward the outskirts of the city, and finally into the suburbs, and, still farther, along a country road.
“What can it mean?” said Lois, but Rob held her hand tight, so she was not much afraid, only for the cats when a dog came in sight. But there was no mishap, and little delay on the way. Toward the last of the journey, just as they had done in going back to their old home, Ban-Ban and Kiku-san broke into a run, and the two cats and two children came in sight of Purrington on the trot.
“Oh, look, Rob!” cried Lois, whose blue eyes were long of vision. “There is a city, a tiny city, with little, wee houses! What can it mean?”
On the walls the children saw a great crowd of cats, all waving paws and tails, and mewing wildly.
“My goodness! I believe it’s a city of cats!” gasped Rob, dropping Lois’s hand in his amazement. “For pity’s sake—”
But he could get no further, for Ban-Ban and Kiku-san dashed through the gates of Purrington, the children after them, too dazed to realize fully the wonderful adventure that had befallen them.
And the instant they passed the gates it was just as Tommy Traddles had said it would be: Rob and Lois understood every word that the cats on the walls, and swarming around their feet, were saying. And they discovered that what they had taken for a chorus of mews was in reality a song of welcome, sung to the air of “Bonnie Dundee,” with these words:
“Welcome, oh, welcome, you are truly well come,
Dear Ban-Ban and Kiku-san, back to your home!
To Purrington first our good Brindle Ban brought,
And sympathy now from our child friends he’s sought.
Chorus: “Then climb on the walls, and wave happy tails;
When Ban-Ban attempts he sure never fails;
Fling Pussy-Town’s gates wide and mightily mew,
Let both cats and children triumphantly through!
“We waited your coming unable to purr,
While anxious thoughts rumpled our minds and our fur;
Afar off we saw you, and mounted the walls,
Our voices quite hoarse from our eager catcalls!
Chorus: “All hail to you, Ban-Ban, and hail, Kiku-san!
All hail, little woman, and hail, little man!
Our joy shall be full since with us you have part,
Kind childhood, kind cathood united in heart!”
THE PURRERS BESTOW THE FREEDOM OF PURRINGTON
he instant that the last note of this song had died away the Purrers, of all sizes and colours, surrounded the wonder-stricken children. Much as she loved cats, Lois shrank against Rob, frightened by the unbelievable state of things.
A city of cats! Cats singing “Bonnie Dundee,” with real English words!
But as soon as Lois and Rob had had a moment in which to adjust themselves to the queer adventure befalling them, they found that they were beginning to have the best time of all their lives.
Madam Laura came up, saying: “My dears, you don’t know how glad we are—Doctor Traddles, Bidelia, and myself—to see you again.”
It was so funny to hear her speaking to them like a grown-up lady that Rob and Lois barely kept themselves from laughing. Then Lois said: “Why, you are the three cats we missed from our neighbourhood when Ban-Ban and Kiku-san disappeared! Look, Rob! Here is that beautiful tiger-cat—this lady calls him Doctor Traddles—and the little tortoise-shell who used to play so prettily—Bidelia, this lady says she is called. We are glad to see you, too; we were dreadfully worried about you.”
“If you will follow us to the city hall we have arranged to present you with the freedom of the city,” said Tommy Traddles, bowing his thanks for Lois’s anxiety about him.
“I wonder what that means,” Lois whispered.
“I’ve read about it; they used to do it in the Middle Ages,” Rob whispered back. “I don’t know what it means, but it’s a great honour.”
“Tommy Traddles is a scholar; he will tell you what it means, Rob,” said Ban-Ban, and Rob nearly tumbled down, he was so surprised to hear his own cat speak to him, for so far neither Ban-Ban nor Kiku-san had spoken directly to the children.
“It means,” said Tommy Traddles, promptly, not unwilling to reveal his learning, though he never tried to display it, “it means this: While you stay with us, and always on all the other visits which we hope you will make often, everything in Purrington is yours: our houses, our shops, our services are entirely yours. We desire to beg you to accompany us to the city hall to receive this freedom with proper ceremonies.”
“Thank you very much,” said Rob, a trifle dismayed at the prospect of taking part in public ceremonies in the cats’ city hall. “But I don’t understand what this city is, nor why Ban-Ban and Kiku-san brought us here. Would you mind telling us? Because we feel queer.”
“Haven’t you explained Purrington to them and why you sought them?” demanded Tommy Traddles, turning reproachfully to Ban-Ban.
“Why, how could I?” retorted Ban-Ban, “when I couldn’t speak to them so that they would understand till they had passed our gates? It was all we could do to get them to follow us here, wasn’t it, Rob?”
“It certainly was,” said Rob, feeling that he must be talking in a dream.
“Take Rob and Lois to your house—yours and Bidelia’s—and there tell them the story of how we came to be a city. They will like to see your house anyway, and we can delay the presentation of the freedom of the city for half an hour,” said Tommy Traddles, graciously.
“Come, Lois,” said Kiku-san, and Lois, recognizing the familiar cooing note in his voice, realized that he must have often said: “Come, Lois,” in the old days, before she had understood his speech.
She gladly accompanied the dear white cat, while Rob walked beside Ban-Ban.
“It tires me to walk long on my hind legs, Lois,” said Kiku-san, “or I would gladly take your hand.”
“I should like to carry you, if you wouldn’t mind,” said Lois, doubtfully. “We could talk more easily than if I had to bend down so very much—and I always carried you.”
“Certainly, you shall carry me, dear,” said Kiku, at once holding up his paws. Lois drew him to her breast, as she had done in her own home; Rob shouldered Ban-Ban, and thus they progressed comfortably, hearing without difficulty the story of the founding of Purrington, which was poured into their ears by their beloved cats.
“And that is why you went away!” cried Rob, admiringly, when Ban-Ban had finished the story. He regarded the Maltese with eyes of new respect as the founder of a refuge for the unfortunate ones of his kind.
“You darling, darling Kiku-san-chrysanthemum blossom!” Lois was saying, as she hugged Kiku closer. “You don’t know how I love you—and Bannie-boy! It is such a comfort to know that there is a place like this where cats can live happily ever after! I’m glad you did it, though I’ve cried myself ’most sick over your going off, and worried and worried! Our mothers tried to get Rob and me to have another kitten, but we just couldn’t look at another one! But it’s worth it all to have a city for poor, friendless cats!”
“Well, I should think we would be the protector, or whatever-you-call-it, of Purrington,” Lois heard Rob saying to Ban-Ban: “We’ll come out here once a week, and we’ll bring all kinds of things to you—Oh, say, Bannie, not to you, though! Won’t you come home again, and let Purrington be run by the Purrers without you? You’ve got it started, and Lois and I can’t stand it without you and Kiku-san.”
Ban-Ban put his mouth close to Rob’s ear and whispered.
“You’re the stuff!” Rob cried, joyously, and Lois knew it was going to be all right, even before Kiku whispered to her: “I couldn’t stay away from you to save my life, Lois. We’re going back when you do.”
The children could not get inside of Bidelia’s house, but they surveyed the rooms through the windows, and were delighted with the tiny, cosy arrangements, and its neatness. The three kittens were led forth by Bidelia, very beautiful to behold in fresh ribbons, but Puttel and Dolly each had a paw in her mouth for shyness. The instant they saw the children they forgot to be shy, but ran at once to them to be petted. Lois gathered Puttel and Dolly up into her neck, and here they remained through the ceremonies at the city hall, while Nugget, who was, now that he had been freed from Scamp’s influence, the same good, obedient little Nugget as of old, sat on Rob’s other shoulder, where Ban-Ban good-naturedly tolerated him.
The city hall had been hung with flowers—the late flowers of September—and all the Purrers were seated in the body of the hall when Rob and Lois arrived. Tommy Traddles, ’Clipsy, Wutz-Butz, and two of the old cats met them at the door and escorted them to the seats of honour on the platform, where Mrs. Brindle was already seated, as another distinguished and useful guest of Purrington, to Lois’s great dismay, for she was in mortal terror of a cow. But, when Ban-Ban and Kiku-san introduced Rob and Lois to Brindle, Lois saw at once that her fears were foolish. A sweeter-eyed, more gentle-appearing person than Mrs. Brindle it had never been her fortune to meet, and the Extract of New Mown Hay, and Sweet Clover with which she seemed to be perfumed made her sweet in another sense. So Lois took the chair placed for her between Rob and Brindle without a qualm, and looked at the meeting with the greatest interest. Such a lot of cats, and such nice, happy, sleek ones she had never seen before. Mr. S. Katz, the butcher, sat directly in front of the platform, and his prosperity stood out about his stout person like a rich garment.
“Please pinch me, Rob—not too hard,” whispered Lois, leaning over to hold out her little pink palm to Rob, as she realized that this was a cats’ City Hall, that this was a meeting held by cats to honour them, and that she was seated on the platform beside the cats’ cow, with her own Kiku-san, as well as Ban-Ban, Tommy Traddles, Wutz-Butz, ’Clipsy, and two other cats whose names she did not know on the platform with her as a committee.
“You pinch back,” whispered Rob, obediently giving Lois a little nip and then holding out to her his own square, brown hand.
It would be impossible to give the speeches made on this occasion. Doctor Traddles surpassed all his previous flights of scholarship in a review of the ancient custom of bestowing the freedom of a city upon those whom that city wished to honour. Rob and Lois found themselves bowing deeply to the assembled Purrers, and Rob made a speech of thanks, not nearly as long and clever as Tommy Traddles, but which was received with the kindest attention and applause by the Purrers.
Then Rob and Lois gave their solemn promise always to stand by Purrington, to visit it often, and in every way to give it the best of their advice and help, which would be more valuable every year as they grew from little children into big boy and girl, and then into manhood and woman-hood.
With this pledge, which the Purrers hailed with a perfect storm of shouts and applause, the ceremonies ended, and pure fun was the order of the day.
Rob and Lois went through all the streets, saw Tommy Traddles’s school,—through its windows, of course,—S. Katz’s shop, with its fresh food temptingly displayed for sale; the other shops, and all the houses, for not a Purrer of Purrington was there who would not have felt slighted if Rob and Lois had not visited his home.
The children rested in the park, which was right in the middle of the city, that afternoon, and Lois had never had such a beautiful, kitteny time in all her life. Every kitten in Purrington came out and got up into her lap, and over her shoulders, and sat on her back, their downy fur brushing her cheeks and hands and arms until Lois felt that she could hardly bear the delight of it, and Kiku-san did not half like it, for he always was a bit inclined to jealousy.
That evening there was a ball given in the hall, to which everybody went, even the smallest kitten, for this was a great day in the annals of Purrington!
First the kittens danced their funny, pretty cotillion figure which they had given at Bidelia’s tea, and Rob and Lois went nearly out of their minds with delight over it. Then all the cats came out on the floor to dance, and the children discovered that they should have to dance with each cat, Rob with the ladies, and Lois with the gentlemen, or else offend some one mortally. It was not clear to them at first how they should manage it, because there really was a great difference—more than three feet—between their height and their partners’! But when they discovered that they were expected to whirl about with their partners in their arms, it became very simple, though not any less queer to be waltzing one’s very best with a cat talking pleasantly in one’s arms;—light, society conversation, suited to one’s partner at a ball,—while a black cat played the violin for the dancing in a manner that would have made a cigar-store Indian “tread the mazy.”
“A black cat played the violin.”
It was a beautiful and painfully funny sight to watch the Purrers dancing together. They were so graceful, so full of the real waltzing spirit, that the children gave up all hope of ever again admiring human dancing. It was pleasant also to dance the square dances that night, with seven smiling cats making up the set! Rob and Lois did not once dance in the same set, to divide their attentions as much as possible. It was like a dream of a puss-in-the-corner game to cross over, balance corners, swing partners and opposites, when there came forward to meet you a large, beautiful, joyous cat, gaily bedecked with an immense bow. Lois reflected that her hair-ribbons were the only thing about her costume suitable to such a beautiful ball, and Rob’s stout gray cheviot knickerbockers and pleated jacket looked suddenly very clumsy, among the sleek and shining fur around him.
Suddenly the Purrers began to sing as they danced, and the children found themselves singing with them, though they did not understand where they had learned the words. For this is what they were singing, to the air of “Pop Goes the Weasel:”
“Paws around and forward and back,
Balance to corners lightly;
When pussy-cats the lanciers attack,
It is a sight most sightly.
Swing your partner, tails enlinked,
Lady in the centre;
Each beau must keep his whiskers prinked
If he would content her.
“Paw to partner, right and left,
Halt half-way for bowing;
While you glide through, swift and deft,
Keep the tune miauwing!
Chassé all, a two-step dance,
Each with partner mated,
Then to supper gaily prance—
You’ll find tables freighted.”
AN ELECTION AND A DEFECTION
t was just a little dismaying to the children at the close of the ball to be suddenly brought face to face with the fact that they were going to spend the night in Purrington. Because there really was not any arrangement for the sort of night which up to this moment Lois and Rob had considered the only kind of night which one could spend. Bedsteads, for instance, had heretofore been as much a part of their idea of night as was the setting of the sun and coming on of darkness; but, though there was plenty of soft bedding and good mattresses, or, rather, beds, of straw and leaves, there was not a bedstead in Purrington. Then, too, there was much to be desired—from the children’s view-point—in the arrangements for bathing. They could not imagine how they were to wash their faces and hands in the same way that the Purrers did—and yet was there any other way? Lois delicately tried her tongue on the knuckle of her left forefinger, and instantly felt sure that she could not manage to bathe in cat fashion.
But the cats who had lived among nice human beings, Bidelia, Madam Laura, and Ban-Ban and Kiku-san, themselves solved the doubts that were filling their guests’ minds by telling them that in the morning they would lead them down to the river Meuse, “where they could wet their faces and hands all they pleased,” said Kiku-san, with a shudder.
The children were to sleep in the city hall, that being the only building in the place large enough to hold them, and Bidelia with her kittens, Madam Laura, Tommy Traddles, ’Clipsy, Wutz-Butz, and, of course, their own dear cats, were to stay with them through the night. After they had lain down in the beds provided for them, Lois and Rob found that they were very comfortable indeed.
Ban-Ban, Tommy Traddles, ’Clipsy, and little Nugget slept around Rob, fitting themselves beautifully and cosily around and into the curves of his body. Of course Kiku-san crept into Lois’s arms, but Madam Laura, Bidelia, and Dolly Varden and Puttel added themselves to her couch, and the little girl fell asleep, supremely happy, for the more cats the merrier Lois was—she never could get enough of their purr and their fur.
Wutz-Butz stayed awake, on guard all night.
The entire party was awakened early by the kittens, who were ready to play before the sun was fairly up. But it did not matter; every one was perfectly rested, and it was to be such a busy day that it was necessary to make it a long one in order to get into it all that must be done.
Bathing in the Meuse proved to be a pleasant experience, and breakfast was delicious eaten under the trees. As soon as it was cleared away, all the cats seated themselves in a circle and waited, washing their paws and faces once in awhile, but very lightly, much as human beings use finger-bowls after meals, and only to occupy the time.
Tommy Traddles came forward at last and addressed Rob and Lois.
“We should like your advice on matters which are most important,” he said. “First of all, we shall be cold here in the winter. How shall we warm our houses?”
Rob considered a few moments, while Lois looked at him anxiously; for the life of her she could not see how it was to be done.
“I think,” said Rob, looking up, suddenly, with a bright smile of relief, “I think you had better move all your houses together and take down one wall of each, so that they will be turned into one big house. Then, I think, you ought to have a chimney right in the middle of that one big house and keep a fire in it, and let everybody in the city live in that house.”
“Wouldn’t it be hard to move all these houses?” asked Lois.
“Not a bit,” said the black and white cat who had helped to carry Dolly Varden on the day the pilgrims had come to the site of the present city; he was the head of the carpenter cats. “Not a bit, ma’am. We’d just as soon move them houses as not—there ain’t no work doin’ now, and we carpenters hate bein’ idle. Them houses was built so quick you wouldn’t think it, and they can be moved as easy as catchin’ a small mouse. The boy’s got a good notion; I reccymend we take it up.”
“The question arises,” began Tommy Traddles, his English sounding more elegant than ever after the slips of the carpenter cat, who had been only a street waif, “whether we could manage the fire. We could easily feed it, but could we build it?”
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” said Rob, enthusiastically. “I’ll get a friend of my father’s who has lived among all sorts of people in Africa and India, and—and—oh, all sorts of queer people—Eskimos, I guess, and Alaska Indians, I’ll get him to tell me how to build a clay chimney and strike a fire from flint. Then I’ll come and build your chimney myself, and I’ll let the fire go out and build it up new every week when I come, so all you’ll have to do is to feed it. But I’ll teach you how to rub stones together to get fire,—when I’ve learned myself,—and if it ever happened that it went out, you could light another. You mightn’t have matches, but you can always get stones. I guess you’ll be all right that way.”
“More than all right,” said Tommy Traddles, with a look of relief on his part, for he had been worried over the approach of cold weather and the prospect of the Purrers having no heat. All the Purrers applauded Rob’s wisdom and noble promise to help them, and Ban-Ban’s fur stood up with pride, while he looked an “I-told-you-so” to the assembled cats.
“We can bring out lots of woollen things and some wadding,” said Lois, longing to be useful too.
Madam Laura smiled at her, understanding her feeling. “My dear little girl,” she said, “you will do a great deal more than bring us warm things; we shall depend upon you for more than you dream of now.” And Lois was comforted even while she remembered how queer it was to be comforted in this grandmotherly way by a particularly small cat.
“City government?” suggested ’Clipsy to Tommy Traddles, reminding him.
“I am coming to that,” said the doctor. “So far we have not adopted any form of government; nothing has happened that required laws. But, as time goes on and Purrington grows into a big city, we think we ought to adopt a government. What sort do you advise?”
Rob tried to look wise, but only succeeded in looking embarrassed, his face flushing darkly to his hair. You see he was but nine years old, and it flattered him tremendously to be consulted—by a Doctor of Claws, too!—on such a serious matter. He did not know what to say, but he made a wise speech to begin with, and was encouraged to go on by the approving looks it won him.
“Well, you see,” he began, “no cat ever minds anybody. If he does what you tell him to it’s only because you happened to tell him to do something he meant to do before. So I don’t see the use of making laws for the Purrers. You’d better trust ’em to do what’s right, because they see it’s best for everybody. Cats are freemen, every one of ’em. So I’d have just a mayor and some Purrers to advise him, and let it go at that. I’m sorry I don’t know much about politics,” Rob added, apologetically.
“You couldn’t have said anything more clever!” cried Tommy Traddles, in high delight, while all the cats miauwed frantically, and Ban-Ban couldn’t resist standing on his head between his front paws, though he had never let the Purrers see him do this, fearing it was undignified in their founder.
“Those are my sentiments!” cried ’Clipsy, while Wutz-Butz remarked in a deep, admiring bass: “He might have been a cat himself, he knows us so well!”
“Then how shall we elect a mayor?” asked Tommy Traddles. “Who would be your first choice, Purrers?”
“Ban-Ban, Ban-Ban!” arose on all sides. “He is the founder of Purrington, and he must be our first mayor,” cried Posty, to which they all shouted: “Must be! Must be!” like a great mew.
“It is impossible for me to serve,” said Ban-Ban, with deep emotion. “I thank you more than I can say. I appreciate the honour done me, and shall never forget it. But I cannot serve. I positively decline. May I suggest that the Purrers allow Rob to appoint their first mayor? Then no one can feel that his neighbours have preferred another to him. You elected me as your founder, and I thank you, but unless the founder has a claim there is no one whom you would like to pick out to honour above his fellows. So let Rob choose your mayor.”
“Ban-Ban is always clear-sighted,” remarked Kiku-san to Lois.
“I would appoint Doctor Thomas Traddles—” began Rob, but got no further. There was a storm of applause, and the meeting saw the remarkable spectacle of a second election by acclaim, as it is called. Tommy Traddles was thus appointed Purrington’s first mayor.
“Why wouldn’t you serve, Ban-Ban?” asked Bidelia, suspiciously.
Ban-Ban faced the meeting. His whiskers quivered, his fur arose, and his breath came quick and short as it always did when he was stirred.
“My friends,” he said, and the Purrers turned to look at him; every cat there caught instantly the emotion in his voice. “My friends,” Ban-Ban said, “I must tell you why I refused the honour which you would have done me. To-night, when Rob and Lois go home Kiku-san and I are going with them.”
Dead silence fell upon the meeting at these words, and from its outer edge a long moo broke from Brindle like a sob. Then a growl ran around the circle, deepening into a louder growl, like thunder, and every cat sprang to his feet in wrath and dismay.
“Going back on us like that?” demanded Wutz-Butz, tragically.
“Oh, Bannie!” said Madam Laura, but the words contained volumes, and Bidelia sobbed into her party-coloured paws, while every kitten present broke into a chorus of pathetic mews. It was most moving, and Ban-Ban trembled from head to foot.
“Dear friends, listen,” he said. “I am not deserting you, as Wutz-Butz seems to think. Every week I shall come here with Rob and Lois—they promise faithfully to bring us, Kiku and me. I planned this city; all summer I have here, leaving the boy I owned—” Rob stared at this way of putting it—“to miss me and mourn for me, and Kiku has done likewise with his girl. I have brought them here to be the aid and reliance of us all. They love us; we have had the happiest home with them all our lives, and we miss them. They are most unhappy without us—do you not think, dear Purrers, considering that every week Rob and Lois are coming here, that all their lives they are going to protect and befriend this city of cats, that you can repay them to a tiny degree by consenting to give up to them two of your number?”
“Ah, but these two!” murmured Bidelia.
The cats all wiped their eyes with their forepaws. “We consent,” said the Purrers, sobbing, and Dolly Varden put her paws around Lois’s neck.
“I don’t blame them,” said that sweet kitten. “Take me, too!”
“Away from your mother?” asked Kiku-san, not at all minded to have even dear little Dolly share with him Lois’s love.
“Then, since it must be, let us pass the rest of the day as merrily as we can,” said Tommy Traddles. “Let us sing my favourite air—you know it as ‘’Way Down Upon the Swanee River,’ Rob and Lois.”
And then the cats sang the following song:
“When all the little willow catkins
Had run away,
And birch leaves clapped their tiny patkins,
Like summer rain at play,
Then Ban-Ban led us where the flowers
Smiled through the dews,
And bade us spend long, happy hours
Beside our river Meuse.
Ah, we cats will love him ever,
Absent though he be;
Cats’ mem’ries are forgetful never
Of good, nor cruelty.
“Go, then, dear Ban, since we must lend you—
Lend, but not give!
We’ll purr our prayers that good attend you,
All the long days you live.
And when each week that rolls shall bring you
To our pussy clan,
May all good fairies guide and wing you,
Ban and sweet Kiku-san.
So this day sees not our parting,
We’ll banish pain;
Ban-Ban and Kiku-san, departing,
Go but to come again.”
WEDDING-BELLS AND BRIEF FAREWELLS
here’s nothing harder than deciding on how to have a good time when one deliberately sets out to have one. A good time seems to be a fine sort of thief, which must come upon one unawares and steal away heaviness of heart.
Having made up their minds to giving back Ban-Ban and Kiku-san to Rob and Lois, except for the weekly visit to Purrington which all four had pledged themselves to make, and having resolved on having the very best kind of time until the close of that day when their guests and the beloved cats started for their first home, the Purrers did not know how to begin having it. They were in danger of standing around discussing what to do instead of pitching into the good time without delay, just as children sometimes do, when something happened.
Down the road that led to Purrington two dots were seen moving nearer. When they had come decidedly nearer the two dots turned into two cats hurrying along. One was snowy white, as the sunshine revealed, and the other was a Maltese.
“Here come your doubles, Ban and Kiku!” cried Bidelia.
“Had often sat on a big volume of Shakespeare.”
The Purrers were quite used by this time to the arrival of strangers coming out from the human city to seek the peace and safety of Purrington, but this pair looked very different from most of the arrivals. The refugees who joined the Purrers were more than likely to come with “lean and hungry look,” like Cassius. Indeed Tommy Traddles, who had often sat on a big volume of Shakespeare during his youth, and who thus had learned to know the poet well, named one of these strangers Cassius for that reason. But this pair of cats arriving now were glossy, sleek, plump, and most elegant to behold, and the Purrers wondered at them as they waved their paws, making them welcome and signalling them to enter the gates of the city.
The Maltese cat came up to the Purrers with a jaunty air. He was strikingly like Ban-Ban, with the same short, Maltese-kind of nose and the same up-and-coming air which the Founder wore, but the Purrers and Lois and Rob thought he was not quite as beautiful in figure.
The white cat accompanying him hung back shyly. She had a less delicate face, more chubby than Kiku-san’s, but she had his gentle air.
“Gentlemen, your servant,” said the Maltese cat, bowing to the Purrers with an impressive air, and expressing himself in a manner which at once betrayed the fact that he had lived with a family where English classics were read aloud. “My name is Ods Bobs, gentlemen; it is a name as old as the reign of Queen Elizabeth. This lady is called Lady Blanche. We lived in the same house in town; one of us had been brought up by one old maiden sister, the other by the other. Lady Blanche and I were looking forward to being married and living happily ever after, looking forward to spending our lives together to their end, just as we had spent them together thus far from kittenhood, when—imagine our horror!—I learned that the person who had brought me up intended sending me away to her brother’s little girl, while Lady Blanche stayed on with her protector! It was not possible to submit to such a fate! We made up our minds to run away; of course to run away together. And where were we so likely to run as to Purrington, of which we had heard such glowing accounts from other cats? So we came; here we are! Will you receive us among you?”
“Gladly,” cried all the Purrers.
“Isn’t that the very strangest thing, that another Maltese cat and this little white lady should come here just when we are taking away Ban-Ban and Kiku-san?” whispered Lois to Rob. “It looks as if they had come to take their places,” she added, as Rob nodded his assent to her question.
“Then we will gladly stay,” Ods Bobs went on. “But one thing more. We were to have had a pretty wedding on the day after to-morrow—no end of guests were invited. We can get on without the guests and the prettiness, but we should like a wedding, and to set up housekeeping for ourselves at once. Can we be married here?”
The Purrers looked at one another, puzzled. There had been no demand for such a thing before, and they were at a loss how to answer. Then they looked at Rob for a suggestion.
“I think the mayor can marry them,” Rob began, slowly, but was interrupted by Bidelia’s little excited mew as she ran over to throw her paws around Lady Blanche’s neck, who was blushing till the tip of her pink nose was rosy red.
“The mayor!” cried Bidelia. “Tommy Traddles—the very thing! We’ll give you the loveliest wedding, my dear! Come, Laura! Come, all lady Purrers, and the kittens! We must gather quantities of catnip and make garlands for the hall. And order all the ribbon there is at the shop. Won’t you come with us, Lady Blanche; we shall want to ask you something every five minutes. Why, you’re not much older than my girls!”
“I’m nine months old,” said Lady Blanche, through her blushes.
“Puttel and Dolly Varden are six months old—I’m only eighteen months old myself. We’ll have a lovely wedding! I wish my husband was here, but he won’t come for a month. He went to the country with the family he owns very early this year, and hasn’t got back. Come along, my dears,” said Bidelia, hurrying away.
The Purrers had never seen Bidelia so excited, and the gentlemen of the place looked at one another, feeling very useless indeed, as the ladies ran off, attended by all the kittens.
“I think we ought to offer to help them,” said Lois. “Rob, Ban-Ban, Kiku-san dearie, let us go after them and ask Bidelia if we can’t help trim the hall.”
It seemed queer to ask such a small cat as Bidelia if she couldn’t make use of them in some way, but the children were getting used to queer things, and to taking the lower place with cats, as mere mortals should.
Bidelia said if they would wait until the kittens came back with the catnip, which they had gone to gather in the Public Gardens, she would be willing to let them help twist the garlands and hang them around the hall. Bidelia took the lead in these arrangements, as she was most fitted to do, by reason of her youth and taste, as well as her experience.
“How often we shall talk over these wonderful happenings in Purrington after we get home, you and I, and our two Blessings,” observed Lois, as they waited for the catnip.
“We shall not talk to you—or rather you won’t understand us—between our visits to Purrington,” Ban-Ban reminded her. “You understand us a little when you’re at home—you often can tell what we want—but we can’t talk together like this outside of Pussy-Cat Town.”
“I’ve been trying to think of everything I want to say to you before we leave here to-night,” Kiku-san added.
“Oh, how horrid!” cried Lois, who had forgotten this rule, and had been looking forward to long talks with Kiku after they were tucked away for the night.
“It will only make us enjoy our visits to Purrington the more,” said Rob, wisely. And then the kittens came bringing the catnip, and they all fell to work weaving the slender leaves and blossoms into wreaths and garlands.
In a short time the hall was beautifully hung with green, and the odour that filled it would have made one of those calico cats, stuffed with batting, turn a somersault. When the hall was trimmed Bidelia, never stopping to admire her own handiwork, ran off with her kittens at her heels to make her own toilet and her children’s, and to summon the wedding guests.
Not a Purrer was lacking to the “large and fashionable gathering which filled the hall,” as The Weekly Mews, Purrington’s paper, stated when it appeared on the following Saturday.
’Clipsy played beautifully on his fiddle as the bridal procession approached. Rob remembered having once seen a picture of a Puritan wedding, in which the bride was represented as riding on a splendid snow-white bull. So the Purrers, acting on this hint, had got Brindle to allow Lady Blanche to ride to her wedding on Brindle’s back, and the effect of the very small snow-white bride clinging to big Brindle’s ridge-poled back was most impressive. The groom walked at the cow’s side, strutting along as proud as a cat, a duke, and a peacock, all rolled into one—and well he might be, for the Lady Blanche was lovely.
Tommy Traddles stood on the platform waiting the bridal procession. It entered the hall, preceded by Puttel and Dolly Varden, in immense white bows, as bridesmaids, and following them came Nugget, also in a white bow bigger, far, than his head, scattering catnip blossoms before the happy couple’s softly falling, padded feet.
It was a most beautiful sight, and a deep purr rolled around the hall as the Purrers gazed admiringly at this first wedding in Purrington.
Rob had drawn up the marriage service, which was brief and simple.
“It was a most beautiful sight.”
“Do you promise, Ods Bobs,” Doctor Traddles asked, “to keep this cat provided with mice all her life? To protect her from dampness, crossness, and all other things she wouldn’t like, just as far as you can? And to love her until she is white, not with this beautiful young whiteness she has now, but with the whiteness of old age?”
“I promise,” said Ods Bobs, in a deep voice.
“And do you, Lady Blanche, promise to nurse and lick this cat if he gets ill, to keep his house, and cook his mice and his catnip as he likes them, and to love him always, and not to spit at him, or scratch him ever, but be a good wife until you die?”
“I promise,” mewed Lady Blanche so faintly that Tommy Traddles had to bend down to hear whether she said: “I promise,” or “I prefer mice.”
But as her response was the right one, Tommy Traddles straightened himself and said, turning to the audience: “I now marry these cats! Lady Blanche, give Ods Bobs your paw to hold; Ods Bobs, take Lady Blanche’s hand. You are now cat and cat, cat and wife. Keep your promises and be happy for life.”
The Purrers purred together the gay tune into which ’Clipsy’s fiddle at once broke, and the procession left the hall as it had entered it, only in retiring Nugget did not walk backward, nor behind his sisters, but strutted out ahead of the bride and groom, and of the bridesmaids, as proud as Ods Bobs himself.
“I’m afraid we ought to start for home,” said Rob, regretfully, as the Purrers prepared to escort the bridal party to the newest house in town, which, fortunately, had not been rented, and so was ready for their use.
“And take Ban-Ban and Kiku-san?” cried a Purrer. All the cats suddenly remembered their sorrow, which the events of the past few hours had made them almost forget.
“Isn’t it strange—and nice—that Ods Bobs and Lady Blanche have come on the very day we go, and that they are white and Maltese, like Bannie and Kiku?” hinted Lois, comfortingly.
“There are no friends like old friends; there can be but one Ban-Ban and Kiku-san,” mewed the cats in chorus.
“So there can’t,” agreed Rob, heartily. “But we’re going to bring this one Ban and Kiku every week to see you. Don’t you think we ought to have just one cat, when we love all cats so much? And don’t you think it ought to be this one, one for each of us, that we took care of and loved from the time they were kittens?”
“Oh, it’s all right, Rob, it’s all right,” cried the cats, eagerly, afraid Rob was offended. “We owe you even our best Purrer and our Founder—but we are sorry enough to let them go.”
“Say good-bye, friends,” cried Ban-Ban, brightly. “Ods Bobs, you’ll have to try to look still more like me, so they won’t miss me! Good-bye, Wutz-Butz; keep the town safe! Good-bye, ’Clipsy, you fine fellow! Good-bye, Tommy Traddles, and good luck to your mayoring! Good-bye, kind Madam Laura, and good-bye, clever, charming Bidelia! Good-bye, three kittens, Puttel, Dolly, Nugget—keep your mittens; remember you are three little kittens! And we shall never be gone long. Good-bye.”
Kiku-san silently took each paw in turn as it was proffered by the Purrers. He was much moved, but did not for a moment lose sight of the fact that where Lois was he must be. The children kissed every cat in the city between the ears, and renewed their promises to protect Purrington.
Then the party of four passed out of the city gates.
“I hope you will never be sorry, Ban,” said Rob. Ban-Ban looked up in his face.
“Mew,” he said, and Rob remembered that, until their return, this was all that Ban-Ban and Kiku-san would say to Lois and him.
Looking back, the children and their cats saw gathered on the walls of the city all the Purrers, just as they had seen them when they arrived. Again they were singing, and though as Rob and Lois walked down the road they could no longer understand the words of the song, Ban-Ban and Kiku-san understood them, and they were these, sung to the air of “My Lady Lou:”
“We watch two shadows wav’ring down the roadway—
Our Bannie-Ban and Kiku-san;
How heavy on our homeless hearts their load lay
When they showed us where the home road ran!
We could not look upon our dear ones going,
Our eyes would burn, our hearts would yearn,
But that we’re comforted in knowing
We shall watch when they return.
“Good-bye, Ban, we’re lending you;
Good-bye, dear Kiku-san, we’re sending you
But for a little space, then turn your gentle face
Toward Pussy-Town, where love awaits.
Here we’ll live in joy and peace,
But you will bring us joy’s increase,
And when these children come, they’ll hear our loud purrs hum
Through Purrington’s wide open gates.”